It is funny how people say they want to fix a problem right up to the point where they would actually have to do something themselves to fix it.
Recently I was asked to help come up with a fix for a problem that a group I happen to care very much about was having, so of course I said yes to helping them. I then began to dig into their problem so I could determine how it came to exist in the first place and what factors were allowing it to get bigger now. The more I dug into their problem the more I came to discover that the problem they needed fixed was actually being caused by this very group that asked me to help them fix it…so what can you do in a situation like that?!
You can be honest with them – that’s what you can do. You can tell them how their behavior has allowed the problem to grow in the first place and then you can explain how their unwillingness to assert proper leadership once the problem was discovered has allowed the problem to expand and become even larger. You can point out the consequences they will face if they don’t fix the problem. You can even write up a game plan for them and lay out exactly the structure that will fix for their problem. You can do all of those things…which I did…but the one thing you cannot do for them is to make them actually fix it. That is something they have to be willing to do for themselves.
People often avoid doing hard things. They avoid having to deliver bad news. They avoid giving feedback that is uncomfortable to give. They avoid being honest if they fear it will make someone else unhappy with them. They avoiding doing what needs to be done when it is not something they are going to enjoy doing. They are afraid to do the right thing for the right reason…they forget that when you are doing the right thing there is always a right way you can get it done and feel good about it.
Honesty can always be given if it is done with respect. Bad news can always be delivered if it is done with kindness. Uncomfortable feedback can always be shared if it is done with the intention of helping someone to improve.
Avoiding the hard things is not a fix for anything – it is a downward spiral that grows out of control quickly. Small problems become huge ones when they are ignored. Simple fixes become vastly more difficult when they are constantly kicked down the road rather than being addressed head on.
Leaders must be willing to lead – they must be willing to deal with problems swiftly and appropriately. And if a leader finds themselves avoiding their duty to lead perhaps it is time to ask themselves if this is really the position they truly want to hold.
~Amy Rees Anderson