A neighbor of mine recently had to hand over $5,000 to the plumbers who then TORE UP his front yard in an effort to replace a section of pipe that had been totally overgrown with tree roots. I asked my neighbor if she had been pouring in root killer into her toilets twice a year to prevent this from happening and she just blinked, having no clue that that was something she was supposed to do.

The moral of this story:

A) If you are a home owner, use root killer in your toilets twice a year. It does not kill your trees but does keep their roots from infiltrating your sewer lines.

B) If you don’t tackle a problem right away, it will grow and grow until you have a costly situation on your hands. Had my neighbor called a plumber when she first noticed her drains draining slowly and backing up, she might have saved herself $5,000.

Getting to the root problem in time can be the difference between a healthy team and a dysfunctional team.

Have you and the individuals you work with collectively defined how the daily operations can work effectively and efficiently? How you can get there together and how you can maintain success together? How to communicate with the desired intent and impact, and how to recover if something doesn’t land on another person? Do you all feel secure enough to approach one another with questions and concerns?

Building an effective and efficient team takes time and patience. It is an ongoing process because people come and go and initiatives evolve, change and new ones are adopted.   

The truth is, when a problem on the team arises, most of us know we must do something, even if we don’t know what or how. But what tends to happen is instead of putting in the effort to come up with solutions, we come up with “perfectly logical excuses” about how we can delay moving forward:

  • “We just don’t have the time.” (Isn’t that we always say?)
  •  “It’s something that we can wait to do during the break.”
  •  “We don’t have the funds.”
  •  “I have to convince my boss that it’s something we need to do to.”

We really do ourselves a disservice as leaders and contribute to the pain, confusion and disfunction of the team by failing to make problems a priority, especially when you know that there are issues bubbling under the surface. Waiting just makes finding the root cause and cleaning it out more challenging (and sometimes more expensive!). 

Here are some tips if you find yourself in this situation.

  1. Reflect on how you as a leader have contributed to the issues that are now bubbling. Make a list of the changes you must make in how you lead.
  2. Start addressing the issues now instead of waiting for them to worsen.
  3. Work with someone, a mentor perhaps, so you can be part of the process to unearth the root cause of the other issues that are occurring and develop a strategy that can be implemented to assist in moving the department forward.
  4. Collectively develop an operations plan for your department.

I worked with a gentleman years ago who was one of those people that would always say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, my motto is, if it IS broke, pay attention, figure out what the problem is, and fix it ASAP!

How do you deal with problems in your department?

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Dean of Student Equity and Success at West Valley Community College Consultant | Speaker | Coach |Strategist |Trainer