Admitting that we or our businesses have issues doesn’t make anyone less effective, capable, or successful as an entrepreneur. It just makes them normal. I’ve yet to meet a “perfect” business. I’ve found that the ones that pretend to be perfect tend to have bigger issues than the rest! Everyone and every business has issues. The trick is turning an issue into a solution.
Having issues doesn’t matter as much as how you choose to solve them. The methods you employ and the time frame in which you address them make all the difference. It could mean the difference between wild success or a business missing its goals and objectives. At worst, it could ultimately mean having to shut down and fold up.
I’ve worked with 80+ businesses over the past decade, from start-ups to multimillion-dollar organizations. And I see the same mistakes over and over when it comes to tackling issues.
Solve Those Issues!
Take a team I’ve worked with as an example. During one of their recent quarterlies, they opened up and admitted that they didn’t solve many issues as a team. (That’s an issue to solve in its own right.)
The same issues kept coming up time and again. They realized they had conversation after conversation about the same thing without making much progress. Nothing seemed to go away, and if it did, it soon came back.
They joked that one of these issues had lurked about for so long that they’d become quite attached to it. They’d miss it if they ever solved it. Sound familiar?
I offered to observe the team at work and see if we could get to the bottom of their issue with tackling issues. We set out to focus on a few of the most important issues. One team member bravely put a topic on the table for discussion, then away they went. It was quite a sport to observe!
The team (now given their “fresh meat”) went straight to task, throwing in opinion after opinion, having discussion after discussion. They had perspectives and thoughts coming in from left, right, and center.
Yet after five minutes of energetic debating, the conversation hadn’t naturally headed to any path of resolution. It just went round and round, seeming to regain new energy with new streams of related topics and connected conversations. At this point, one of the team members turned to me and asked, “Is this normal?”
I replied that for most teams, this is indeed “normal.” Yet they certainly didn’t have to accept this normal on their team.
This team faced a common problem, assuming they were talking about “the issue.” They weren’t. This team certainly focused on an issue – up at the macro level (satellite view), rather than down at the micro level (with a magnifying glass).
First, they hadn’t gained clarity about what specifically they needed to focus on. They had a common understanding of the topic the issue connected to and all the things that relate to it. Yet they hadn’t clearly identified the specific issue that as a group they would move on to solve. They hadn’t found the one issue underpinning most of all the other associated noise.
I liken it to the team throwing darts at a dartboard from 100 feet away whilst squinting, rather than taking the time to get up close and focus on hitting the bull’s-eye with every shot for best effect.
We pulled out The Issues Solving Track™ (IDS) from the EOS Toolbox™. Then we reviewed the three steps to help them better solve their issues at the root, for the long term, and for the greater good.
1. Identify: Curiosity Killed the Issues
The challenge with their issues started at the beginning of their conversation. They’d failed to dig deep enough or take the time to get absolutely clear on the root issue. They just began energetically throwing darts at that metaphorical dartboard willy-nilly.
We ran through the first stage of our Issues Solving Track: Identify. They took the time to clearly identify and agree on the “real” issue. They’d solve this one as a team … looking for the bull’s-eye.
Up until then, the team lacked curiosity during their identification stage. They hadn’t asked the right questions to uncover the real problems underneath the symptoms. Instead of adding opinions and views to fuel the conversation, the team asked questions to uncover the exact issue to solve.
They kept at it until they all agreed they’d come to the “right” issue to solve. Once they agreed, they committed to focus on solving just that one thing and block everything else out … for now.
2. Discuss: Get Everything Out on the Table
Time to move to the second stage: Discuss. Now clear on the real issue, the team could rein in their conversation to just that specific thing. This made it easier to streamline their thoughts, perspectives, and discussion.
Doing so brought the conversation right down to the ground instantly. From time to time, the team would digress and shoot off on a tangent or disappear down a rabbit hole. Every time they uncovered a new issue, they simply captured it as a separate issue to come back to another time. Taking the time to laser focus on the one thing to solve, they kept the main thing the main thing.
Getting clear in the Identify stage led to deeper and more open conversations around the issue they needed to do away with. Of course, it created some good levels of healthy conflict.
Importantly, as a healthy team, they certainly didn’t look for everyone to agree with each other’s opinions and perspectives. They simply needed to hear others’ thoughts, listen, understand, and get all the “colors” of the issue on the table. Sometimes the best solutions come from a team that strongly disagrees but still moves forward, committed to getting the job done together.
3. Solve: Decide, Decide, Decide
Ultimately we want our clients to get clarity from the Issues Solving Track. A team needs clarity on the REAL issue, WHAT can be done to solve it, and WHO can solve it. They want the HOW, WHEN, and WHERE to solve the issue and ensure it doesn’t return again to haunt them.
Because the team took the time early on to get clear on the actual issue to solve and voice their opinions, the solution became quite clear. Very quickly, they assigned actionable to-dos to people and left the room knowing exactly how to solve the issue. We agreed to check in the following week to make sure the to-do had been done.
With vigor and energy for solving their issues this new way, the team excitedly got to work on their next issue. They’ve since told me that by using IDS, they solved more issues in 10 weeks than they had in the last two years! And long may that continue just as it may for you in your business.
To get the IDS tool, download the complete EOS Toolbox for free.