Business problems = people problems

November 21, 2019

Liza Robbins

By Liza Robbins.

When something isn’t running smoothly in your business, you might look in different directions for a solution.

Depending on the problem, you might research technologies that might be applied to resolve the issue.

Maybe you look at your business systems and processes to try and spot what’s going wrong.

Perhaps you even examine your whole business model.

But what if I told you that all these are red herrings….

…And that ultimately, most problems in your business have the exact same cause?

That’s what the keynote speaker at our India conference later this month argues.

That’s right – Most business problems are really people problems, says acclaimed author, activist and business consultant Shiv Khera.

Get rid of the latter, and you’ll also solve the former!

What he means is that you have to understand the human attitudes behind the issues, and inspire people’s trust and motivation to generate improvement.

For example, let’s say you’re struggling to raise your sales team’s performance levels and increase their output.

A new project management app hasn’t helped, and neither has offering a bonus for hitting targets… so what’s next?

In this situation, an inexperienced leader might conclude that the problem is a hopeless team: “They don’t seem to want to work together… they avoid taking responsibility… I’ve tried everything I can think of, but they don’t change!”

Don’t jump to that conclusion too quickly, because chances are that there are deeper reasons why your team isn’t producing the results you need….

Perhaps there are personality conflicts and they don’t work well together. Maybe they do not believe in the work they’re doing (because no one’s shown them how much they contribute to the firm’s overall success). Or perhaps their manager is not giving them any autonomy, squashing their motivation.
When you understand the underlying human dynamics, you’ll understand the real reasons they behave as they do – and then you can help them change.

You see, tools and incentives work best when your team is not only capable of performing well, but also mobilised to succeed.

If the root cause of your team’s issues is interpersonal, then you need to tackle it at that level – otherwise nothing else you do will help much at all!

Here’s another example.

If your team spans multiple age groups, you may find that the millennials’ feet-on-desk, casual attitude irritates the more formal older staff, who find it disrespectful…

…And the millennials resent the way older staff expect them to be at their desks 9-5, and never notice when they work from the local coffee shop, at home on weekends or late through the night.

Individual differences in style can create deep division between your team members, impacting their output and the quality of everyone’s work…

…But if you don’t understand what’s really going on between them, you will struggle in vain to improve their work.

As a leader, your technical skill in accountancy is not enough to build a good business.

You also need ‘soft people skills’, that is, the ability to understand and motivate the people working for you.

That’s how you generate a shift in their attitudes — by building understanding, empathy, and trust within the team.

And figuring out how to resolve those interpersonal tensions is the key to facilitating easy collaboration and productivity.

I suspect that Shiv Khera will have more to say on this in Delhi, where he’ll talk about how to create high-impact leadership by building a culture of trust and accountability.

I’m looking forward to his insights – and if you’re going to be at our world conference, I hope you’re as excited as we are for all the fantastic sessions we have planned!