How to deal with issues and problems
In last week’s blog – “You cannot bypass the truth” – I discussed the fact that if you want to fix/transform any dysfunctional or unwanted organizational condition or dynamic you have to start by being honest and telling the truth about the problem.
I am sure you have heard the saying
“95% of the solution to your problem is admitting that you have a problem!”
Well as simple as it sounds, this powerful principle applies when dealing with big organizational issues.
If you want to fix or change an undesired condition, you have to make sure all the key leaders and team members who are involved in that condition agree that there is, in fact, a problem. They have to own and embrace the fact that things are not working, and they have to be willing to talk about it.
Many times leaders have to look in the mirror and acknowledge that something about themselves is not working. It could be in the way they are interacting, collaborating, aligning or the way they are being viewed by others. Most importantly, leaders have to own the negative impact that their dysfunctional behavior is having on the teams they manage.
If leaders are too proud or arrogant to admit their shortcomings they don’t stand a chance at driving change.
In my last blog, I stated that the two main reasons that prevent leaders from addressing the issues are either their lack of courage or that they simply don’t know how. They don’t have a reliable methodology and approach for addressing the problems.
Many leaders have shared with me their previous bad experiences of how trying to create a dialogue to address a problem turned into a ‘bitching session’ or ‘screaming match’. In many of these recollections, their attempts not only didn’t yield a positive outcome they caused greater divide, trauma and bad feelings.
I would like to share a high-level approach, which is both simple and powerful, for addressing issues, problems, and unwanted organizational dynamics. If you apply this framework it will help you transform even the most challenging issues.
- Clearly define the Problem. Start by clearly acknowledging and outlining the problem. By clearly I mean make sure that everyone sees the problem the same way. As part of this first step, you could also get clarity on questions such as: “When did the problem start?” and “Why did it start?”. So many times this seemingly simple step of clarity isn’t achieved and different team members have a very different take on the problem. In fact, most often whilst some members say there is a problem others deny it. If team members are not on the same page about what the problem is, they won’t be on the same page about what to do to solve it and they definitely won’t bring the same commitment and passion to the task.
- Focus on your commitment. People are often eager to delve into the details of the action plan and ‘who is going to do what’ too quickly. They go into ‘What needs to be done?” and lose sight of ‘Why do we want to do this?”, “What do we really want here?” and “What is our bigger purpose and committed?” By taking a step back to focus on your commitment you can generate a much more powerful and compelling platform of shared and aligned commitment. Operating from commitment is proactive. Fixing a problem is reactive.
- Come up with possibilities and ideas. Once you are clear about your bigger purpose and commitment you can start exploring possibilities and ideas for how to turn it into reality. A keyword in this step is COULD – “What could you do to fulfill your commitment?” In this step allow yourself to think outside the box. Don’t restrict yourself to ‘realistic’ or ‘achievable’ ideas. After all, in this step you are not committing to anything, so truly allow yourself to come up with as many new possibilities and ideas as you can.
- Commit to clear actions. Once you have a long list of possibilities and ideas for what you could do you need to decide which of these you are actually going to carry out. Whatever you decide to do, commit to it. Promise it. Make sure the outcome, time frame and ‘who is committing to what’ are all crystal clear. In fact, document all promised actions so you can follow up on them.
- Set a cadence of follow up touch points. Many teams are good at creating ideas and even committing to them, but they are not good at following through. So, as part of the action plan commit in advance to a cadence of follow up meetings and make sure to keep to them, no matter what!
These five steps represent a very powerful process. However, any process or methodology is only going to be as effective as the context inside which they are being implemented.
You can’t simply follow the steps and hope for great things to happen. You have to bring your heart, soul, commitment, and most importantly – courage – to the game.