Are You Performing Heart Bypass Surgery on Your Team?

When surgeons perform heart bypass surgery, they know they’re treating symptoms and not getting at the root cause of the problem. The surgery reduces the pain from blocked arteries, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem (sorry, I couldn’t resist) – cholesterol and fat buildup that leads to hardening of the arteries.

But how about you? When it comes to problems in your leadership team, are you addressing only symptoms, bypassing the root cause, yet thinking you’re getting to the heart of the problem?

Leaders have been schooled in identifying the root causes of problems to ensure that any solutions address the source of the problem. Most organizations use some process improvement approach, which includes root cause analysis as a key part of solving technical problems.

Are You Performing Heart Bypass Surgery on Your Team? image side postit get to the heart of itAre You Performing Heart Bypass Surgery on Your Team?

But when it comes to human problems in teams, leaders seem to leave their root cause competence behind. They fall for the shiny object – often a quick fix – that treats the symptoms but keeps the problem alive and festering, only to return in a mutated and more powerful form. Why? Because identifying and treating root causes of team problems requires that leaders first shift their mindset – the way they think about the problems .

Here are three common team problems, each with a familiar solution that addresses only a symptom, not the underlying root cause of the problem. For each, I identify a key question that, if asked, would lead you to a solution that gets to the heart of the problem so you can better resolve it.

  • Problem: Your team meetings take far too long, people get off track, and decisions get delayed.
    Bypass Solution: Have everyone stand in meetings.
    Your Reasoning: People will get tired of standing, so they will make briefer comments and stay on track.
    Heart of the Problem Question: What needs to happen for us to make good decisions instead of just quick decisions because people are tired from standing?
  • Problem: Your team members aren’t working well together, and performance is suffering as a result.
    Bypass Solution: Take the team offsite for a day of fun teambuilding activities, like race car driving or river rafting.
    Your Reasoning: By getting the team together to have fun, team members will bond and team performance will improve as a result.
    Heart of the Problem Question: Specifically, how is the team not working well together and what’s causing the problem?
  • Problem: Your direct reports don’t disagree with you after you have shared your opinion; yet you find out later, often too late, that they do disagree, and that slows down implementation.
    Bypass Solution: You ask your direct reports for their opinions first, and you don’t share your view until the issue has been fully discussed.
    Your Reasoning: By speaking last, you find out what people really think and you reduce your concern that your direct reports covertly disagree with you.
    Heart of the Problem Question: What are you, as the team leader, doing that makes your direct reports reluctant to tell you their honest views?

Until you have a mindset that leads you to ask questions that get to the heart of problems, I guarantee that problems will continue to fester, your team condition will further decline, and you and your team won’t get the results you need.

Learn to identify the root causes of your team problems.

Attend the Smart Leaders, Smarter Teams™ workshop:
October 7 – October 10, 2013

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