Shift the Conversation . . . Shift the Results

After over 35 years of consulting inside of businesses large and small, I keep hearing the same kinds of conversations.  The conversations are nearly all the same in every company, only the names are different.  It goes something like this:

“Paul is driving me crazy.  He is just not being cooperative.  And he is definitely not a team player.  I’ve tried everything and I just can’t deal with him any more. It’s definitely a personality clash; we are just too different to work together.  I think we need to make a change.”

I am certain you have heard similar types of conversations.  And the problem is, 9 times out of 10 it’s the wrong conversation!

By wrong, I mean it is not productive, rarely solves anything, actually makes people more resistant to each other, builds walls, sours the culture and just plain misses the point all together.

And what is the point?  We need to shift (aka reframe) the conversation from Personalities to Root Cause.

My experience with these types of issues is that people problems are rarely the result of problem people.  If you shift the focus and the conversation onto Root Cause, in a very short order you will find that there is either a broken, ill-defined, undefined, or redundant process at work that is causing frustration and difficulties between people.  What looks like a personality clash is actually a result of poor processes.

Paul isn’t being obtuse or difficult or not a team player, he’s just trying to do the best job within his functional responsibilities in dealing with a poorly defined process.  In many cases personality clashes are the result of two people each thinking that they have the sole responsibility; in other words, duplication of effort caused by poorly mapped or non-existant business processes.

So, want to make rapid progress?  Change the conversation from Personalities to Root Cause.  And if you don’t know how to investigate a root cause or do process mapping either hire someone who does or be content to enjoy the endless people complaints around the water cooler.

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
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