elephant in a room of books | talking about solving people issues in your company

Speaking Up About People Issues When You Don’t Know How

Mike Kotsis People Issues Leave a Comment

One of the toughest types of issues to resolve in any business are people issues. People issues are incredibly difficult to acknowledge and address, because they are always emotional. Even if you know the issue is there, you may not have a language for addressing it in a healthy and honest way. And if a member of your team is involved, it can feel especially impossible to deal with.

The only way to effectively address—and resolve—a people issue in your company is to identify its root cause. If you don’t get to the root cause, the best you can do is treat the symptoms. But the symptoms are just signposts to the real issue, and the problem will continue to impact your team and your company.

In the Entrepreneurial Operating System®, we use the People Analyzer™ to identify and address the root cause of a people issue. But to get to the People Analyzer, you need to be able to talk about the issue.

Speaking Up When It’s Hardest

If your team doesn’t talk honestly about solving people issues in your company, you’re not alone. I’ve worked with many leadership teams that didn’t have the language to talk about people issues in an open an honest way. When a client runs into this problem, I pull out my barnyard animals.

I use four stress-toy animals that help break the tension in the room and give people a way to introduce a difficult issue.

image of stress toys

  • The Elephant – There’s an elephant (issue) in the room
  • The Cow – Someone is holding onto a sacred cow
  • The Bull – There’s a lot of B.S. (or a bully) in the room
  • The Horse – It’s time to stop beating the dead horse!

These toys make it easier to address uncomfortable issues. When someone has something difficult to say, they pick up the relevant animal or toss it to one another. The stress toys provide a language you can use to bring up emotional issues, so that ultimately you can use the People Analyzer to get to the root cause.

Breaking the Pattern of Avoidance

I recently met someone who was dealing with this issue at her company. She was at an EOS talk I gave in Detroit. After the talk, she sent me the following email.

When I got back to the office yesterday, one of my employees had a massive blow up. Why? Because we have been dealing with a person who is not in the right seat.

So, it all clicked. I called in the E team, and followed the charts and principles from your presentation. I was able to point out that what they blew up about WASN’T the problem. It’s the fact that the employee is in the wrong position. And he’s been a sacred cow for a long time. Talking about what he does wrong was just beating the dead horse. And having the conversation was acknowledging the elephant.

You know what they were talking about today? Dead horse. It was awesome. They stopped focusing on the bad outcomes, and started focusing on the real problem.

I was thrilled to receive this email, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve received feedback like this. Companies of every size and type are using this technique to finally address long-overdue people issues. It opens the way to get the Right Person in the Right Seat, throughout their companies.

If your team is avoiding a people issue, try using the stress toy language in your next meeting. You may be surprised how much traction you’ll gain from one overdue conversation.

Need help with people issues in your company? Watch this short video to see how I help teams become their best. Then download Chapter 1 of Traction, the book that helps teams get aligned, become healthy, and find Traction®.

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