When you are facing something difficult or something you might characterize as a problem, follow these steps. For purposes of illustration I’ll use the example of an employee not meeting performance expectations.
Define the problem. The real problem. Not your ideas or story or worries or opinion about it, but what the problem truly is.
Example: Employee is not meeting performance expectations.
Ask why the problem a problem.
Again avoid your thoughts about the problem. If your response has anything to do with you and your discomfort with addressing the problem, that is NOT reason the problem is the problem.
Who cares about this problem? So what? So why is the problem a problem?
Problems are problems in organizations when they are genuinely impacting organizational success. Not when we believe they exist to bug us or make us uncomfortable.
Example: Employee not meeting performance expectations is impacting the organization’s ability to hit their goals.
Identify the gaps that are driving the problem.
Is it a skillset issue? Do I / we/ they not know what to do but are willing to learn?
Is it a mindset issue? Do I / we/ they know what to do but are choosing not to for some reason?
You cannot fix or resolve a problem that you haven’t clearly defined. And you cannot remedy a problem until you can identify the cause or root.
Example: Employee has never done the work before (Skillset). Employee has done the work before, but doesn’t like it (Mindset).
Implement solutions to address the specific causes of the problem.
Skillset: Teach yourself or others HOW to do what must be done.
Mindset: Clarify the ineffective thinking that is driving the cause of the problem.
Example: Set up training for employee that either you or someone else conducts. Assess knowledge and skill after training. (Skillset)
Coach employee on the thoughts that are impacting their ability to perform. “This work is boring.” “I don’t like who I have to work with.” “This is too hard to do.”(Mindset)
Have a clear conversation addressing the problem outlining the following:
The problem: Not meeting performance expectations
Impact of problem: Organization not succeeding, team members picking up slack
Allow contributors to offer insight into the problem: Employee shares their perspective.
Consequence if problem continues: If performance doesn’t improve the following may happen (personal brand may be impacted, termination, relocation, removal from project, reassigned work, etc…)
Follow up: Set up date where problem will be reevaluated
Document: Discussion and plan
There isn’t any good reason for problems to go unaddressed.
But our thinking and our beliefs about the problem can get in the way of our ability to objectively addressing the problem.
Next time you are faced with a problem, pull this out and apply it.
There’s nothing personal about problems… Unless we make them so.
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