Stop Looking for a Silver Bullet Answer to Your People Problems

The role relationships play in overcoming performance issues.

Staff Writer

While werewolves are not fond of silver bullets, their usefulness is lost on “people problems.” Werewolf hunting aside, a silver bullet is also a metaphor for a solution to a longstanding problem. And in business, “people problems” are the struggles all managers face when attempting to motivate and inspire employees to achieve superior results. Their ubiquity–people problems–are enough to drive managers mad with frustration. Unfortunately, we each do not come with an instruction manual that lays out a recipe for “best results” when interacting with one another.

It is convenient to think that a simple answer from a wise leadership guru can be the salve to your employee headaches. The truth is there is no simple solution. In fact, such problems are prolific and complicated. In the December 2016 issue of Harvard Business Review, the magazine listed common problems when humans are at work. And they included their impact on profit. Here are a few:

  • Bad hires: almost an average of $10k a day is lost
  • Unproductive meetings: just over an average of $8k is wasted each day
  • Routine solutions: nearly $8k is wasted each day
  • Busywork by employees: this costs business over $7k daily

A pithy quote from Simon Sinek or a cranky insight from Tom Peters may be tempting to medicine to the people ailments that plague your day. Indeed, Sinek and Peters are talented, insightful, and helpful. Though neither they or any of us, for that matter, who write/consult/teach/speak on related topics hold the one answer to transform you, your team, or your business.

Instead of looking for an easy answer to age-old problems that come with being human, remember this: The best way to solve your people problems is through high-quality connections. Build relationships with each employee. Learn who they each are as a whole person. Learn about who they love, what they like to do on Saturday, favorite foods, music, cities, and inquire about their goals in life and at work.

When you seek to understand the people entrusted to you to lead, only then can you maximize the wisdom from all of us who aim to help you. Also, do not undervalue your insights or those from your colleagues.

High-quality relationships at work help find answers to redesign unproductive meetings or provide intel on ways to inspire innovative thinking and action. If you need innovative thinking, learn about your employees’ strengths and motivations. Use this knowledge to understand better why they may choose busywork over higher valued assignments. For additional ideas on solving people problems, check out the table below.

Relational Solutions to People Problems
  • People Problem: Bad Hires
  • A Solution: Screen for collaboration tendencies during the interview process
  • People Problem: Unproductive meetings
  • A Solution: Integrate 5 minutes of connection time at the beginning of each meeting and then lead a tightly scheduled, thoughtfully designed and planned meeting
  • People Problem: Routine solutions
  • A Solution: Intentionally identify employees’ strengths, talents, and experiences and map them to a problem you need help solving
  • People Problem: Busywork
  • A Solution: Building on the above solution, learn about your employees’ passions, strengths, and problems they like to solve. You’re looking to understand their intrinsic motivations to know how they prioritize their work.

There is no single solution to dealing with people problems. There is, however, a significant contributor to their cause–treating people as though they are expendable. This one nasty, dehumanizing mindset puts into motion a series of leadership problems that no silver bullet can fix.

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