Are you addressing an issue or a symptom of it?

You may be creating unnecessary stress by treating a symptom instead of solving the root issue.

It’s well-documented that one of the causes of stress in the workplace is having poor management.

And what happens when we’re stressed?

We get sick, depressed, and worried, which then leads to an estimated $200 to $300 billion a year in lost productivity.

One of the recurring themes I hear when it comes to poor management is that leaders, managers, and employees do a poor job addressing their issues. In many cases, they’re not addressing them at all.

The good news is you can solve issues in a way that is manageable, clear, engaging, and efficient.

Getting to the root of an issue can prevent stress.

Last weekend, as my family and I were walking to our car, my oldest son kept complaining about his flip-flop.

When I asked him what was wrong, he exclaimed, “My flip-flop is broken.”

Having looked at the flip-flop, I noticed there was nothing wrong with it. Heck, it was a brand new pair!

After my son took the flip-flop off, shook it, and put it back on, he started walking again. Seconds later, the same complaint arose.

This time he was even more frustrated and visibly stressed out. 

Again, I asked him what was wrong. The response: “This stinkin’ flip-flop.”

Noticing that he had previously walked through a patch of sand, I proceeded to ask him: “Son, is there sand on your foot?”

Immediately he looked on his foot and, lo and behold, there was sand on it. That was the reason he had the issue. It had nothing to do with the flip-flop.

Are we looking for sand in our daily lives or are we looking to blame the flip-flop?

We Must Dig Deeper to Get to the Root Cause.

In my work with businesses and in conversing with normal, everyday people, I hear a lot of complaints and blaming. Essentially, what I’m hearing is a lot of people talking about the symptom of an issue, and not the root cause of it.

Allow me to illustrate in both a business and personal setting how my conversations typically go in these cases.

Business owner:  We’re down on sales.

Me:  Why?

Business owner:  Our sales employee is just not working hard enough.

Me:  Why?

Business owner:  I don’t know. He just can’t close business.

Me:  What’s your sales process?

Business owner:  We don’t have one.

In less than 30 seconds, I helped this individual to see that the problem wasn’t necessarily the employee. It was the fact that the business didn’t have a sales process to help the employee sell.

Here’s a personal example:

Individual:  There’s just not enough time in a day to get things done.

Me:  Why?

Individual:  I just can’t get everything on my to-do list at work done, and I end up coming home late every day.

Me:  What’s going on at work that is preventing you from getting work done?

Individual:  I’m constantly getting interrupted – people wanting to seek my advice, my phone is blowing up…you know, the typical.

Me:  So, it’s not about time, it’s about your inability to prevent and manage distractions.

Individual:  Blank stare.

Time wasn’t the issue. It was this individual’s poor ability to manage it.

As you have seen in these two examples, people are not addressing the root cause of their issues. As a result, they are stressing out and, in many cases, being less productive.

One way I help people address this issue (pun intended) is by introducing an issue solving tool. It’s a tool I learned through EOSÒ called “IDS.”

Here’s how it works.

Easy 5-Step Process for Solving Your Issues and Getting Traction.

  1. Write down ALL (yes, all) of what you think may be issues on a piece of paper.
  2. Rank your top three.
  3. Starting with your top issue, get to the sand! Ask open-ended questions and “why?” as many times as you can to get down to the root cause of the issue. Again, in many cases, what you listed in Step 1 is a symptom, not an issue.
  4. Ponder just what may need to be done to solve this issue. If you’re in a team-setting, use this time for discussion and engage everyone for their thoughts on how to solve the issue. But once they’ve spoken, they’re done. No politicking!
  5. Commit to action. Write down exactly what needs to be done to solve the issue. In some cases, you may be able to solve it right away. In many cases, however, you will need to put it on your to-do list for the week, month, or quarter. In a team-setting, if you reach a stalemate as to what action is needed, you will need to pick one decision-maker to make the final decision (TIP: pick your ultimate decision-maker before you start the session). Consensus doesn’t work in this exercise!

Once you’ve completed solving Issue #1, move on to #2, then to #3. When all three are solved, if there is time left in your issues solving session, repeat steps #2 thru #5 again. Whatever does not get solved gets pushed to the next session. I recommend having a session every week.

Let’s face it, we all have issues. And we all want to be successful. Truth be told, our success is in direct proportion to our ability to solve our issues. If we want success, we need to get better at solving them.

What is one issue you’re facing that keeps showing up? Please share in the comments below, or feel free to contact me directly.