Often what we think is the problem, is not the real problem. Does this make sense?
I’ll put it another way. Have you ever slammed a door in anger? For the 99 per cent of us whose answer is ‘Yes’, a follow-up question. “Did slamming the door fix the problem?”
When I was about 14, Mum asked me, “What’s wrong sweetheart?” I replied angrily “Everyone is giving me the shits?” She said lovingly, “Oh sweetheart; everyone can’t be wrong.” Whack! She was telling me that those on my list weren’t the actual source of my frustrations.”
When we experience workplace frustrations, we tend to blame others (co-workers, bosses, suppliers, staff) and not the actual source of the conflict.
The actual source will be and should be considered in this order:
What do you want to fix/improve/achieve?
When taking on a new client we conduct an in-depth needs/aspirations analysis. Part of that analysis is asking management and staff, “What would you like our help to fix, improve or achieve?” Here are some typical responses.
To help our clients address these issues we review and improve their business structures and resources before blaming anyone’s competency or commitment.
How to achieve a behavioural change
A a few years ago, we worked with a major fuel company aiming to increase sales and margins. The client asked us to design a sales training course. In effect they were telling us that their under achievement in sales and margin was due to their competency.
We didn’t provide sales training, because the problem was not competency based.
We restructured their quote template (resource), turning it into a proposal template. The salespeople could only complete their new proposal once the client answered specific questions that did not relate to price.
The questions were:
I’m just going to have to tell him again!
But what if we have the right structures and resource and there are still problems? Good question. The, “I’m just going to have to tell him again!” comment came from a very experienced manager. It related to a staff member not completing his machinery pre-startup checklist despite having the resources and understanding the process.
We asked the staff member to explain what he should do prior to starting up any machinery. Instead of us telling him, he told us. He knew exactly what he should do.
We then asked, “What do you think the outcome will be if you do not follow agreed standards/expectations?” He said, “I’ll be out of a job?” He nailed it. We said “Yes. Is that what you want?” And he said “No”. His commitment improved!
Slam the right door in the right order
All the frustrations that are within our control or influence to fix will be due to one of the four root causes listed above. Start with the structures first, then resources, then competencies and lastly, commitment.
Another of my key mum/son conversations went something like this:
Mum: “Neville, the second saddest day of my life was when you moved out of home.”
Me: “Ahh…what was the saddest day of your life, Mum?”
Mum: “When you moved back.” And then she showed me the door.
Sometimes we are left with no other alternative but the door.