Imagine you are walking along and see an old, empty paint can in the road. Do you pick it up and throw it into the nearest dumpster – or, do you kick it down the road?
Most corporate teams, if they answered the metaphorical question honestly, would admit that they tend to kick the can down the road: the “can” being any tough issue that really needs to be addressed. We have found, across all industries, that team meetings tend to revolve around reports and discussion of non-critical topics while critical issues go unresolved from week to week and month to month.
Teams tend to hope that someone else will deal with the can or that it will just disappear on its own. The fact is, however, tough issues never go away unless they are effectively dealt with. They just keep coming back time and again.
It takes leadership courage to tackle the tough issues and stop kicking the can down the road. Courage is necessary because when you put a critical issue on the table, things might blow up. People might become angry or upset. They might be offended. Some might even quit. But if you don’t address the tough issues, your team and your business will never reach optimal productivity, performance, and outcomes. The can will always be in your way to trip you up.
With that in mind, build an issues list and put the issues in priority order. Then, commit to tackling the top three toughest issues using the steps recommended by the Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®) – Identify, Discuss, and Solve (IDS):
- Identify. Identify the issue you want to discuss and agree as a group that this is the issue on the table.
- Discuss. Make sure you are all on the same page with regard to the nature of the problem, its causes, its impact, and any potential solutions.
- Solve. Decide on the solution you will implement. This needs to be a tangible action item with an owner who will execute that action so that the problem gets solved once and for all. Report back when the issue is resolved so that the team knows the matter has been successfully addressed.
Let’s take a look at how this works in real life. Take the case of the toxic superstar we encountered at one of our client companies. This company had a top salesman who did an amazing job – he was delivering something like 60 percent of the revenue for the business.
But there was a problem: he was horrible to work with. He treated everyone in the organization very badly: support staff, colleagues … even his boss. He would dismiss them out of hand and use vulgar language regularly. However, his boss was reluctant to sit down with him to ask him to change his behavior because of his numbers. What would happen to the company if the salesman got angry and left?
We helped his boss and the rest of the leadership team realize that kicking this can down the road was not healthy for the business. The team then worked through IDS:
- Identify: “The problem is that a high-performing salesperson is treating colleagues with disrespect and acting very abrasively.”
- Discuss: “This is having an effect on the productivity and health of the overall team and is ultimately impacting our business results.”
- Solve: “The salesperson’s boss will sit down with him and give very clear feedback on the behaviors that he is exhibiting that are unacceptable and the impact of his behavior on the business. The boss and the salesperson will agree together on changes the salesperson is going to make in his behavior.”
The result? The salesperson did make changes! His behavior still isn’t perfect, but it has improved significantly. He continues to bring in the same volume of opportunities, but the business is able to capture and retain more of them because his colleagues are no longer being demoralized or angered on a daily basis.
Was there a risk that the salesperson would explode or quit when confronted with the boss’s feedback? Yes. But because the leadership team had the courage to face that risk, the entire atmosphere of the company has changed for the better and the business’ growth has accelerated substantially.
It’s time to make a change. Stop kicking the can down the road … tackle the tough issues and reap the benefits of leadership courage.
Read more about Leadership Courage:
Leadership Courage Part 2: Engaging in Open Dialogue and Healthy Conflict