There comes a time in every business when problems compound.
It’s an inevitable part of the game.
Sometimes the problem has slow but steady growth, while other times it comes out of nowhere and – BOOM! – clobbers you over the head. 🤕
One problem turns into two, which turns into four, which turns into… you get the idea.
When this happens, it can throw you – the owner or head of the company – into a state of panic, causing feelings of helplessness and danger.
This “danger” causes the involuntary fight-flight-freeze stress response. Your heart rate gets faster, which increases oxygen flow to your major muscles. Your pain perception drops, and your hearing sharpens. These changes help you act appropriately and rapidly.
These are GREAT if you are running from a lion 🦁 but chances are you don’t need such adrenaline when you are in your office!
The main problem here – in addition to feeling uncomfortable – is that to solve multiple problems quickly, you don’t need your survival brain, you need your analytical problem-solving brain.
My battle-tested solution to this starts by isolating each individual situation. Individually these problems are usually easy to solve – it’s only when together that they can feel impossible.
The following steps will help:
Step 1 – Isolate your individual problems. Write each one of them down.
Step 2 – Focusing on one at a time, define the following parts of the problem:
#1 Outcome – What does success look like for this function?
- We must have an agreed vision of what success looks like. Without this, there will always be a moving target and mismanaged expectations.
- If you’re working with a team, write this out together. What is our cumulative definition of success?
#2 System – What is the process in place to achieve the outcome?
You should always, always, always have a way to document processes or “SOPs” (standard operating procedure).
- If there is no defined documented SOP, take the time to map one out with your team, step-by-step. I find that Miro.com is a great digital whiteboard tool, otherwise do it somewhere that will allow you to return in the future.
- If you have a defined documented process, then review it to ensure there are no holes in your process.
- When the process is hole-free, move to #3.
#3 People – Who is responsible to execute this process?
- Now you have a clearly defined outcome and a system to achieve success, the final question is WHO is responsible for upholding the process?
- Do they have the necessary skills and training? Do they understand the process and why it matters? Do they understand what the desired outcome is?
- More often than not, our tendency as founders is to avoid training until there is a problem. Give your team more than enough training to win.
- If there is a blatant disregard to an established, documented, and agreed outcome and system, then it’s time to do a write up.
Doing a write up without a HR manager is a lot of work, but you can consider services like Bambee.com, which have a GREAT solution for small businesses’ HR needs. They have templates for just about every situation and give you on-demand advice so you are HR law compliant.
All in all, this process is pretty simple and foolproof. I always suggest setting a meeting time without interruptions to walk through this protocol with your employee or department head so they feel comfortable problem solving with you.
When we can move away from “You did this” to “Let’s solve this together”, the mindset shift can be truly transformational and you will start to see the outcomes and results you crave.
The most important takeaway: Remember to always unpack the situation before trying to problem solve.
Don’t get hung up on details, and iterate over time. You’ll now have a document you can always come back to when future challenges arise.
P.S. “Problems” should always be called “Challenges”, not problems. I put “Problems” at the beginning intentionally because that’s what most of us call them. The CFO of my first company called me out on that and I’ve never looked back because challenges are to be overcome!