July 24, 2024

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No matter what business you are in, there are plenty of obstacles that threaten to stop your progress. We bring our own limitations, from disabilities to a lack of tech awareness, to the table.

There are two things I have learned where barriers are concerned: one, the unexpected usually manifests at the worst possible times; and two, the simplest thing can bring even the most confident leaders to their knees. Here are three ways to defeat some of the biggest challenges you will likely face in business.

Related: How to Embrace the Motivating Power of Fear and Reach Your Highest Goals

How to deal with feeling shut out

Like most executives, my business depends on digital connectivity. This is especially challenging for me since I am a legally blind CEO. I have multiple technologies that give me audio access to everything from email to documents. I even have a barcode on my spice bottles at home so that I know the difference between saffron and cinnamon. However, when it comes to technology, the unexpected has become expected for me and for anyone who depends on it. When technology fails, the price is not only frustration but also lost time, lost money and blown deadlines.

When a tech issue seems impossible to solve, I have learned to ignore the chatbot, “blitz” the available contacts — email, customer service number, support ticket, other contact page or search engine info — and hope at least one attempt gets attention. Another strategy is to research others’ responses to your problem. Chances are if you are frustrated, other users are complaining as well. Look at blogs, online groups, comment sections and forums where people are talking about the issue you want to learn about.

But you can feel shut out even when technology is working, especially if, like me, you have a limitation such as vision or hearing loss; or, maybe you are a divergent learner. In those cases, it’s important to stand your ground. More than once, a business partner’s dependence on a single content management system has disenfranchised me, closing off all communication. You can do everything right and still run into a wall. When that happens, you have choices. Try negotiating for compromise. If your networking associate won’t budge, shake things up and find another partner. In fact, your willingness to cancel services or end alliances may bring a delayed but much-needed response. Delayed as their action might be, your issue might receive the attention it deserves.

Related: 4 Strategies Entrepreneurs Use to Overcome Obstacles

How to find your voice

If you have a disability, you may find that people often forget about your limitations. Alternatively, you may choose not to share something so personal, realizing the risk of this is their high expectations. You may be experiencing grief or worry over a stressful matter at home, or you might feel marginalized because of the biases of others. There are many ways we can all feel as if we are not truly being heard.

You can go a long way toward having others listen to you by tapping into your own winning spirit and finding your voice. The opinions of others, the attitude of executives and even bad reports you’ve read about the company are all outside influences. Your voice is more than your speech; your “voice” is part of your image, the person you intentionally bring into the office every day. When I feel that no one is listening, I mentally tap into my inner purpose. The negativity others put out there doesn’t touch my own motivation, the reason I am in this role, or my potential. There are things that no one can touch — faith, drive, desire, confidence — unless you allow it. This winning spirit is what can take you above the conflict. When you come into work knowing you are operating at a different level, you will set the tone for your team, your department and eventually the entire company.

Sometimes, however, you may feel that you can’t handle all the challenges you face. We’ve all been there. A new leadership role may come your way just as you lose a parent or a loved one. You may have a limitation and take on a new role, unsure of how to master dozens of new skills and the complexity of the new position. That’s when you need what I call a “trusted advisor.” This can be a mentor, a colleague, a good friend or a therapist. If you feel that your voice is lost, if you feel you can’t be enough or do not have enough resources to meet the challenges you face, you don’t have to do it alone. Remove from your mindset the idea that asking for help is a sign of weakness. I have learned that it takes great strength to reach out to someone when you hit this particular obstacle. By partnering with others, you will find a path to making yourself heard.

Related: How to Find Your Leadership Voice

How to win at catch-up

I learned long ago that people project their best “self” or the image they need for others to see. Behind that façade, you will find that most everyone experiences challenges. The woman at work who wears the best makeup and latest fashion suffers from depression. The top salesperson is actually going through an emotional child custody battle. The first myth about playing catch-up is the idea that everyone is ahead of you. That is the first assumption we should all lose.

But, let’s assume you have moved into a new role at work — and you truly are falling behind. Everyone else understands the new software or knows how to manage their time while you’re still trying to set up email. First, get your sleep clock and workflow set and keep to them so that they become habits. Next, make a schedule that includes everything. Decide when you will get up, when each task will occur, and how much time you must devote to those things. Build in extra time; quiet moments to replenish your energy. Schedule workouts when they are most beneficial. Relaxation and peace are earned things; proper scheduling reduces anxiety and gives us a feeling of accomplishment — and a cause for celebration.

Being legally blind has given me the gift of planning. Since I am not able to jump in my car and go, I have to think through the steps, from waking up and going over my work for the day to transportation. I also make good use of my time since I have someone driving me to important appointments. This is when I study topics I need or want to learn more about. Podcasts, audiobooks and relaxing music are just a few ways I redeem what most people call wasted or “down” time.

Even in the best situations, you will find obstacles in business; the unexpected will show up in the form of a technology issue, bias or conflict. Barriers often challenge us in ways that pay off, giving us the chance to rise above them and apply the lessons learned across time in various situations. We must bring the right tools to the workplace, understanding that challenges can be the building blocks of our success, now and in the future.

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