Are We Hiding Behind Process Issues to Avoid People Issues?

by Zach Montroy

Have you ever worked for a leader who’s constantly fine-tuning processes? This person is constantly going back to the drawing board – re-engineering and over-engineering – in an effort to make things more smooth and productive within the organization. 

At first, this type of approach sounds great. We should all aim to correct our mistakes, right? We should always be looking for new ways to innovate around hurdles, correct? 

Sure – but when all the tweaking and fiddling doesn’t make things better, it’s not a process issue. It’s a people issue.

In my experience, leaders often find it easier to retool a system (over and over and over) than to have difficult conversations. It’s as if they’re continually finding new ways to organize a pile of junk…and things won’t get better until they confront the issue of how it got there.

Don’t Look to Process Rather than People

It is important to have solid processes in place. Organizations need to understand how things get done, and who’s responsible for what. However, a process isn’t sentient. It’s not going to fix a lack of trust, an unhealthy work environment, or decreased productivity. The answers to these problems won’t be found in better work flows or fancier software tools. 

Leaders can’t hide behind process issues when people issues are the ones causing the headache. Instead, these issues need to be dealt with. They require bravery and difficult conversations. The longer they go unaddressed, the greater the damage to the organization. In my work, I help leaders identify what’s really causing the grief – and help them move from spreadsheets and data to flesh-and-blood team members.

How To Go Straight to the People Issues

A strong leader will look for the root of the problem. Is the organization dealing with performance issues? Sometimes, expectations haven’t been made clear, or employees aren’t being held accountable to those expectations. Team members may be working in positions that don’t suit them, or they could be a poor fit for the organization as a whole.

The first step is naming what’s going wrong. It’s not always easy, and it takes courage and tenacity. However, it’s the only way to move past what’s wrong and move to what’s right.

What Happens Next? 

Once a leader understands where team members are losing their way, it’s time to set a new course. Set clear expectations and make sure everyone knows how (and when) they’ll be held accountable. Provide constructive feedback and support your team as they make the necessary changes to improve their performance. 

Often, it’s necessary to sit down and have difficult conversations. This may involve honestly addressing performance issues or clearly articulating what needs to change. Take the time to listen and understand where each employee is coming from, and what they need to succeed in their own career goals and aspirations.

When You Work with People Rather Than Process, Everyone Wins

By addressing people issues directly, leaders can create a culture of accountability, transparency, and trust. This, in turn, can lead to increased productivity, improved employee engagement, and a more successful organization.

Though it can feel tempting to buy into new tools, new systems, and new methods of organization, they can often be a distraction. Don’t allow yourself to be derailed by what initially seems “easier,” look to the long term and do what needs to be done.

Reach Out for Support

Confronting and resolving people issues is never easy. It’s a rewarding, worthwhile work, but it may require some support. I have extensive experience working with leaders and their organizations to achieve healthier, more productive teams. I’d love to talk with you about your team and your goals. Reach out and let’s connect.

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