People problems are not always problem people

Executives often have a standard response to difficulties between departments and between executives.  “Looks like those guys can’t get along.  I think we may need to make some changes.”   The most common change is in personnel; find a replacement, someone who can get along better with other members of the team.  Another common response, before finding a different person, is “coaching”.

It usually goes like this:  “Sarah’s just not working well with her peers and its negatively impacting her department.  I think she needs coaching.”  And so the often frustrated senior executive gets a dose of coaching, which more often than not is psychological in nature, looking for “issues” in the past to help explain the difficulty in working well with others.  Over competitiveness as a compensation for your insecurities… blah, blah, blah.

Let’s suppose however that the issue being addressed is a manufacturing quality issue or a supply chain problem. The most common approach today is to use a Root Cause Analysis, map out the value chain and look for waste, incomplete feedback, missing process steps or ill-defined standards.  By mapping out the process it is often easy to find one or more issues that are the main cause of the problem.

Why do we think people problems are always problem people?

What if we decided to map out the leadership processes that tend to impact on how executives behave and interact?  What if a faulty step in the process (like incomplete or inaccurate metrics) were at the root cause of Sarah’s problems with one of her fellow directors?

Before leaders assume “people problems” they should investigate their own leadership and management processes.  I will wager that the majority of the time the problem lies in the process, not the people.

If you want to understand more about “leadership processes”, give me a call  or drop me an email.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in leadership, the business of business. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to People problems are not always problem people

  1. Pingback: Shift the Conversation . . . Shift the Results | John R Childress . . . rethinking

  2. Pingback: Vision Express, Again and Again . . . | John R Childress . . . rethinking leadership

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s