This year as an organization, we have been ferreting out and eliminating practices and behaviors based on negative assumptions or which create first-and second-class citizens.

Yesterday, we examined PCI’s new two-sentence handbook: We trust you to do the right thing for yourself, PCI, and our clients.  Now do it.

Today we look at our new “problem-solving” framework which replaces our prior disciplinary policies.

Which starts with high expectations.  As leaders, it is our responsibility to set the bar high and then communicate, follow-up and check-in with our team members.

When something does go wrong, we are proactive.  We don’t ignore issues or wait until they escalate and become serious problems.  Traditional HR looks for iron-clad proof before holding a conversation.  This is different.  We are not detectives.  We are not building a case against someone.  If there is an issue, we sit down and talk about it.  This is the right thing to do.

As leaders, our job is serve, support, and remove obstacles so everyone on our team can do their work effectively and efficiently.  When someone is struggling or making mistakes, we put their growth ahead of whatever comfort we might find in not addressing it directly or perhaps ignoring it completely.

How do we know when there’s a problem that needs to be addressed?

When productivity suffers.  When others on the team are impacted.  When we’ve clarified expectations and the issue still exists. When our team or organizational culture is at risk.

We begin by adapting the right mindset.  We aim to put ourselves in the place of the associate rather than putting others in their place.

This is not “I’m right, you’re wrong.”  It is not a “parent-child” conversation:  Instead, we have an open, adult-to-adult, two-way communication.  We approach it like we would with a neighbor we like.

Minus facts to the contrary, we begin with positive assumptions: there has to be a reason this behavior is occurring.

The goal is problem-solving.  We aim to resolve the issue.  Not discipline.  Not punishment.  Not finding fault.

Instead, we are curious:  “Here’s what I’m hearing…  Here’s what I’m seeing…”

We have a clear, open mind.  We are genuine.  We are specific.  We clarify the exact problem.  We give examples.  If applicable, we refer to past conversations.  We are clear and concise.  We avoid rambling.  We don’t guess or assume or jump to conclusions.  We describe the facts, not our assumptions about the facts.  We describe behaviors, not, “You have a bad attitude.”  

We aim to get to the root cause.  It’s difficult to solve a problem if we don’t know what’s causing it.

Critically, we state the impact and the need for change.  This is often an attention-getter.

We ask open-ended questions.  We listen.  Initially, we may hear excuses or blame.  We are patient.  We stay curious.  “Help me understand.  Tell me more about…  Why do you think this is happening?  What’s the desired outcome?  What’s your plan?”

We reflect back what we hear.  We paraphrase: “What I heard you say was…  Is there anything else I can do?”

We label emotions and aim to diffuse conflict: “You sound frustrated.  It sounds like you are upset about this change.”

We lead it back to what the person can control.  “What’s the plan you can put together to address the issue?  What’s in the way of you following through?”

The final step of the “problem solving” process is for the leader write a letter immediately following the conversation to the associate summarizing what was discussed.  This type of documentation is different from the traditional HR document.  It doesn’t end with a threat.

Instead, the focus is on what was discussed, what the associate has agreed to, and the plan of action going forward.  The tone of the letter is conversational.  We detail next steps.  We express confidence in what the person has agreed to do.

As leaders, do we own the issue?

No.  The associate does.  Each person is responsible for their actions and their behavior.  They are accountable for explaining what they are going to do to address the issue.  This is the desired outcome.

If someone chooses not to be accountable, PCI is likely not the right fit for them.

The bottom line?

We don’t want our managers spending time on the 5-percenters.  Our goal is to reinvest this time in the growth and development of the rest of the team.

When we first did this training last summer, one manager commented: “I’ve been waiting for this training my whole life.”

So far, so good.


Reflection:  When in my past have I used a fresh creative response to address a challenge?

Action:  What new approach might I take to address a challenge I am facing now?

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