Contemplate for a moment on how often you avoid dealing with the problems you need to. Now ask yourself how well that typically turns out – for you, your team or even your business. In my experience avoidance simply prolongs agony and often makes things worse. All too often the people I work with hesitate to address issues and ultimately pay a price. Energy, time, money and momentum are all lost when roadblocks to success are tolerated, ignored or simply put in the ‘too hard to deal with right now’ basket.
The simple reality is the sooner you deal with the problem, the sooner it will be resolved. No matter how complex the issue, steps that move you forward are worth taking. While of course there are times when you need to be calculated in your timing, that’s different to finding excuses to delay or simply hoping things will get better on their own.
Life throws all sorts of challenges at us. The only control we have is over how we choose to think, feel and act in response. For example, we can either imagine terrible consequences of dealing with a challenge and fail to act all together, or step past our fears and have some influence on how things play out.
Among the most common examples of avoidance I see, are leaders failing to address performance issues. This is especially true when the concern relates to poor attitude and behaviour. Leaders give me a myriad of reasons as to why now isn’t the right time for them to have the honest conversation that’s needed, or to take the action that is often already well overdue. Here are just a few:
- They have an important deadline coming up that we need them to achieve
- There are small signs of improvement and I don’t want to undermine their confidence
- They’ve got issues going on at home to deal with
- I really don’t have the time to deal with it properly right now
- I’m / they are going on leave soon
… and so the list goes on.
While each of these statements may well be true, in most circumstances none is reason enough to avoid taking steps to resolve the problem. People deserve honest insight to the issue at hand and the need for it to be resolved. In many ways leaders do people a great disservice by holding back the truth they need to hear. Reflect for a moment on how you would feel if your manager robbed you of the opportunity to understand the truth, before it was too late to do anything about it.
Never hold back from giving people honest insight for example into how they are performing, the impact their behaviour is having on their colleagues or in fact their job security. While every individual is responsible for the standard of their own attitude, behaviour and performance, leaders play an essential role in guiding people to success. Engaging with respect and sensitivity is key, particularly when people are going through tough times.
Among the most important steps you can take to deal with the issues you are avoiding include these:
- Recognise what is holding you back. Is fear playing a part? Fear of conflict, emotional outbursts and damaged relationships are common. Do you hold false hope? For example, do you tell yourself that things will work themselves out over time. Is being overly optimistic your issue? Maybe it’s time to face the reality that things are unlikely to work out unless you take action.
- Get advice. If you are unsure about how to tackle the situation talk to people with experience. Call on mentors, HR and other professional colleagues to gain insight to how they may approach the situation.
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait until you are so frustrated or fed up that you respond in unhelpful ways. Take the time to reflect on the situation, what you believe is contributing and how the issue can be resolved. If you are concerned about the conversations you need to have, think about what you need to say and reflect on how you need to approach it. Again, if you’re unsure get advice.
- Choose your attitude. Recognising the thoughts and emotions you entertain and choosing those you allow to influence your actions is key. For example, recognise when you are focused on what might go wrong and shift your thinking to the benefits of resolving the issue.
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