Address the Messes

Shawnee Love   •  
May 13, 2016

If you have been following our series on culture building, we are now at step 11, addressing issues (conflicts, questions, and obstacles etc.) in a fair and timely fashion.

Let’s first discuss why resolving issues is so important to culture.

First and foremost, it is because organizational culture is actually…

how people behave in an organization.

Thus, culture is also how your employees experience the organization.

In small businesses,the employee experience begins and ends with the leaders of the organization.  That’s because leaders’ beliefs, values, actions and attitudes set the parameters for what is acceptable and typically the employees behave in accordance or they don’t last long.

If a leader ignores the conflicts and questions and doesn’t deal with any of the obstacles that arise, then two things happen:

  1. Problems build up and people are forced to find coping mechanisms and work arounds.  In this situation, operations and productivity falter and further conflicts sprout amidst poorly thought out bandaid solutions which create more issues with each one they solve.
  2. People come to understand the culture as one where it is difficult to be successful.  When this understanding occurs, motivation drops and people will begin to leave. (PS. Usually the best ones go first.)Businesswoman business concept with solution for problem success

A leader enables the business to move forward by addressing issues as they arise and preventing unproductive tactics from taking hold amongst employees such as info hoarding, gossip, politicking, silos, lone ranger-ism and presenteeism.

If you want to ensure you are addressing your organization’s messes, here’s what to do:

  1. Get out in the business everyday.  Walk around, observe, and pay attention to what is -and what’s missing.
  2. When you notice an issue (or even something that you aren’t sure about), check up on it. Ask how things are working.  Don’t fall prey to the myth that you have to wait until someone officially complains to deal with it because by the time someone complains, it is usually far bigger and deeper and thus more difficult to resolve.
  3. When asking about the problem, find out whether your people need help resolving it or not.
    1. If they can resolve it themselves, give them  the chance to do so, but have them report back.
    2. If your people require your help, or if the issue is one which is too critical to not become involved (e.g., legal, safety, core business related), then:
      1. Figure out the problem and what exactly caused it
      2. Generate solutions (involve your people in solution generation if appropriate)
      3. Decide which option to move forward with
      4. Take action accordingly (again you may delegate as appropriate)
      5. Follow up to ensure the action(s) worked and the problem is in fact solved
      6. Learn from it

Taking care of your people by resolving the problems they can’t solve themselves builds trust:

  • in you personally as a leader and
  • in the organization as a place where employees can be successful.

In doing so, it helps create a good culture.