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Why is it we live with problems?

by Kevin D. Crone

May 31, 2017
Living with Problems

It sure is easier to diagnose a life or business problem when it isn’t yours. Why? Well, when you’re in the middle of it, all your emotions and sometimes the ‘can’t win no matter what you do worries’ take over. It’s hard being objective.

There are always consequences to every action or the lack of action. The fear of the downside wins too often.  Or, we believe that we can have our cake and eat it too and think that problems will just go away. As a result, we tend to get boxed in and learn to avoid, or live with issues even when the effects are so harmful.  On top of that our pride and ego can get in our way because the truth can be tough to deal with.

When you’re mired in the muck of a tough issue, your tendency is just to survive and hope it will get better on its own. You see it everyday with relationships, health, money, – issues that never seem to go away.

You plainly see it in business:

  • Why do you keep that person in their position?
  • How do you coach and build a team when they don’t seem to be interested in getting better?
  • How do you increase your performance when you’re a bit bored or don’t like what has to be done?
  • How do you survive a bad boss, the politics, or the negative environment at the company?
  • How do you increase your competencies and skills when you’re unfocused, even when you know what is needed by you to grow the business?
  • Why aren’t we making customers happier, even though we know what it will take?
  • Why aren’t we finding out why big customers aren’t buying more?

I know – keep staying away from the truth and the actions required, and instead, get good at blaming others. Another idea is to get better at feeling sorry for yourself because it leads to passivity and unenthusiastic behaviour.  Subsequently, your fellow associates, customers and the market you work in will leave you alone. It will be great walking around with all those frustrations and hidden destructive feelings. You’ll be great to talk to at a BBQ and/or company meeting. You’ll find good company with other miserable people.

Now you know my sarcasm is meant to just mess with you a bit so you will not live with problems. We know that it can be really tough to take on reoccurring, uncomfortable problems, see the truth and take responsibility for the solutions – to talk the truth and do what you know needs to be done.

Being a business coach for a long time I tried many ways to help my clients, (most times executive teams and CEO’s) to see the truth, to arouse a desire to change, to improve on their behaviours and to implement needed plans. It was never easy. Not everything worked and what did work with one didn’t necessarily work with another.  Many times, I had to say tough things and not everyone responds well to that.

I remember once working with a team who were trying to figure out how to grow. They had hundreds of ideas on the wall by the end of the second day. We were doing an affinity visual which meant putting like ideas and possibilities into categories and looking for a pattern. By dinner time I had them go back to the meeting room and stare at the wall again for the word that I thought was missing as it relates to business growth. Yes, you guessed it! The word “Customer” was missing. It finally occurred to them too.

We then got into a conversation about the real design of the business that comes from commitments and demands that shape the actions and causes behaviour and the subsequent performance or non-performance. Yes, all the normal demands came out. Such as Shareholder return, CEO’s results declarations, the strategic plan (Which basically wasn’t strategic if you leave out the customer – more of an operational plan), the demands by management (how to keep your job?). It exposed normally unsaid sacred cows that didn’t make sense anymore but everyone was scared to bring up except at barbeques when management wasn’t present, etc.

We then mapped out what these demands lead to and what they produce for the business and discovered in a more honest dialogue, issues that people lived with but knew all along were disruptive. We then turned back to the missing word and concluded that the new design should be driven by:

How to “Support our customer’s business to grow.”  This common-sense conclusion was hidden amongst the mud of internal conflicts and fear and a ridiculous lack of real communication.

A few were embarrassed, a few more became defensive and the CEO became quiet.  I wasn’t the most popular guy in the room but our next day was about 50% more authentic and needed actions were revealed. It was always amazing to me how seemingly obvious issues were defended and or ignored. But it shouldn’t be amazing or unexpected. Organizations get stuck, just as individuals do.  We all live with some problems and things we should have done something about. We all get mired in the mud and get stuck in it at times.

Too often in business we identify the organization’s culture or the lack of values established by management, or a lack of mission that people can rally around, as the reasons for bad habits and actions. Okay there is some truth to all that, but come on, do we need to be lead around? Isn’t our productivity and performance about our personal commitment as well as management’s?

Those conversations we didn’t have and/or the actions we didn’t take are our responsibility, even if we have to drink the company “kool-aid” and follow some lousy business practices every now and then. It’s not easy, but it sure is rewarding to experience just doing what needs to be done.  Having that difficult conversation with a team or an associate or customer, or setting up a new system that advances the business or our lives.

Every team can get at what’s required to grow the business with an authentic dialogue with no blaming and excuses if effective human relations principles are used.  Dale Carnegie’s principles, in what is named the business book of the last century, are a tremendous reminder of how to get cooperation. Many successful CEO’s I know re-read it every year. Sometimes a good fight clears the air but most times it doesn’t work because of the way it is done.  It doesn’t usually build – it destroys.  And the organization structure creates an unfair communication gap. If you consider everyone’s feelings, the politics, and the present CEO’s plan, it is possible to get at real problems.

Dale Carnegie also published a classical way to get to solutions that work for an individual or in a group dialogue.

  1. What is the problem?
  2. What are the causes?
  3. What are some possible solutions?
  4. Then, by using any rating or criteria meeting system you want, answer – What is the best possible solution?
  5. What is the first step?  Second?  Etc.

Simple….not easy.

As an achiever, you know action is all there is. There’s beauty and elegance in it. All things are possible with action. We need to fix what needs to be fixed. To get at solutions and to take whatever action makes sense. Business and personal growth and better performance and happiness is ours for the taking.

What is your action this morning?