Note: The following post was written by Taylor W. Wells, Communications Director for On The Mark Strategies.An Empire of Wealth - 1

No problem can be solved until it is reduced to some simple form. The changing of a vague difficulty into a specific, concrete form is a very essential element in thinking.
– J.P. Morgan, American financier and corporate titan


Several years ago I read an excellent book by John Steele Gordon, An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power. During a recent business trip I took my copy down from the bookshelf and began to re-read it. As with many favorite reads, dusting off this gem was like coffee with an old friend.

I was particularly struck with its depiction of finance and business icon J.P. Morgan. Morgan, among many other feats, was responsible for the creation of General Electric and United States Steel Corporation. He is also recognized as one of the pioneers of management techniques. Amongst his successes, Morgan was also beset by many failures. History, however, canonizes Morgan far more for his successes than his setbacks.

As the above quote testifies, Morgan was a firm believer in breaking down seemingly insurmountable challenges into smaller, easier-to-tackle portions. Some of you may recognize the following familiar adage in the guise of Morgan’s original wisdom: When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.

When life tosses problems our way, at home or at work, an easier way to deal with them can be found in Morgan’s words. As leaders at your financial institutions, your fellow employees and management team will look to you for guidance and inspiration in times of adversity.

When faced with such challenges, try to break them down. For example, let’s suppose your new branding efforts are beset with difficulties. Staff isn’t following branding guidelines, management isn’t backing your play, etc. After all the time and effort you put into the project, such challenges seem overwhelming. Try breaking them down into smaller parts. Approach individual staff members and ask them why they’re having difficulties with the brand. Take the time to explain, explain again and explain some more why the brand is vital and why their support is more vital still. Conference with management team members and hold similar conversations. Remind them that the brand is only as successful as its many components and failure to lead on it is an open invitation to disaster.

The branding problem is only one issue you might face. Other recurring management issues include:

  • Employee morale and/or disengagement
  • Time management
  • Relationship building
  • Communication deficits
  • Lack of appreciation

How you deal with workplace challenges will in large part define you as a leader, in the eyes of fellow employees and management. Learning innovative ways to tackle these inevitable issues, such as breaking them down into smaller parts, goes a long way towards helping you establish a problem-solver image.