Towards Trouble

When I was a kid it seemed that I was the only kid that got in trouble. My parents used to say that it got to the point that if there was a problem they would just come find me because it saved them time and energy in the long run. As I got older I learned that this was only the case in my house. My brother and my sister seemed to have been graced with the capabilities to either totally avoid getting in trouble, or if implicated they always seemed to have a plausible story as to why it was actually my fault and not theirs. This could possibly have been because most of the time it might actually have been my fault, but that was just details.

The point of all this is that when we are younger we usually learn to deal with trouble as it comes to us. When we found ourselves in a situation where we might have been considered to have potentially been involved in something that could have been construed by the unenlightened as possibly a source of pending trouble we did the only things we then knew how to do; We either ignored it and hoped it would go away or denied our involvement and hoped it would go away.

Does this method of dealing with trouble sound familiar in business?

Since this is the way most kids learn to deal with trouble from a young age, and for the most part unless you are one of the select few who actually had to confront trouble, either your own or somebody else’s, this method might have worked occasionally. What I later learned was that the only time this method of dealing with trouble worked was when my parents decided it was more trouble to confront me about the trouble than the original trouble was worth, so they just ignored it. I didn’t realize it then but my parents must have been kids once too.

I think this learned childhood behavior may be the basis for the methodology that most managers today use for dealing with the issues that arise during the course of conducting business. In business we no longer have trouble. We have issues. Issues are the adult business equivalent of childhood trouble. Chances are today as an adult if someone actually comes up to you and tells you that you are in trouble, it’s probably time to find a good attorney and hope they don’t put the cuffs on too tight.

In business today it seems that either ignoring the issue and hoping it will go away or denying involvement and again hoping it will go away is the preferred issue resolution process. Those of us who grew up dealing with trouble have a tendency to look on at this business process now with wonder. Then we start moving toward the source of the issue.

What I learned was that if I waited for the childhood trouble to come to me, (and it seemed that it inevitably would) I would have to deal with it on somebody else’s (usually my parents) terms. I would be playing defense. I would be explaining. The same goes for the business issues of today. If you are trying to ignore the issue or deny involvement in it you are playing defense. Not much progress is to be made in business from a defensive position. In this process the issue manages you, not you solving the issue. If you want to make progress with an issue, either solving or resolving it, you have to confront it and move toward it.

Business, and I guess several other aspects of daily life today, seems to have evolved to a point where having problems confront the business instead of the business confronting the problems is now the acceptable norm. It may be a subtle or even semantic difference, but in can mean a great deal. If you are not confronting the issues you are coping with them. Instead of removing or solving the issue, you are modifying your behavior or process in response to the issue. This is usually not the optimal solution to an issue.

I have stated in the past that businesses provide their customers value by taking the customers’ issues (sometimes these are issues that the customer may not have even been aware that they had), internalizing them within the business, and presenting the customer with a solution. If done properly this process will result in the customer giving the business money.

Again the key here is taking the customer’s issue, internalizing it, and solving it. The ingrained ignoring and denying response to issues won’t work here as it doesn’t provide any value. This means that if you want to provide value to your customer, or your business, when you see an issue you need to move towards it.

Despite several other managers’ most fervent belief that if left alone most issues will just somehow sort themselves out, the only way to solve an issue is to acknowledge and confront it, and to apply work and effort to its resolution. The only way to do that is to become fully engaged in the issue. It may be that the ignore and deny managers do such a good job of ignoring and denying the issue that they do not see the work and effort being done by those who are engaged in solving the issue, and hence when it is solved it just goes to reinforce their position of ignoring and denying.

No one likes to have trouble. I didn’t particularly enjoy it as a kid, and I am not real fond of its issue equivalent in business. As a kid I seemed to have developed a sense of when trouble was coming, and what I would need to do to deal with it when it came. This sense usually occurred right after I did something that could get me in trouble. I also learned to recognize the actions of other kids that could get me in trouble and what I would need to do in those instances as well.

Now in business I use this experience in recognizing issues (trouble) to prepare for them as well as to how resolve them. I have learned to move towards trouble in order to deal with it and resolve it on terms that are most beneficial to the business instead of ignoring or denying it until a point where the business must react. Acting on an identified or anticipated issue is always preferable to and more optimal than reacting to a known or expected issue that has eventually presented itself.

Even a kid knows that.

Leave a Reply