Ingaging Leadership

Define and address the causes of problems, not the symptoms


If you are trying to solve a problem in your organization, here is an important question to ask:

Are you addressing the symptoms of the problem, or the cause?

Let’s say, for example, that your salespeople are not meeting your expectations or sales quotas. In many organizations, leaders will define the problem in just that way, saying, “Our salespeople are bad at selling, that’s the problem.”

However, if those company leaders dug deeper, they could identify root causes of the problem that, if addressed, could lead to more effective solutions. The root problems could be issues like:

two business people in a meeting room having a discussion

  • We do not have the best products to compete in the marketplace.
  • We do not have the right pricing.
  • We have supply or delivery problems that cause our customers to buy from ourcompetitors.
  • Our customer service is not good enough to motivate first-time buyers to become repeat customers.
  • We have a training or coaching problem.
  • We are not taking steps to be sure that we hire the right salespeople.
  • We are not equipping our salespeople with the right tools.

Think of an issue that you are facing in your company—a problem that you are trying to solve—and try to dig deep until you have identified all the possible root causes of it. Then decide which of them to address first, and how. Remember that other people will be able to offer you a wider range of perspectives and suggestions than you could generate if you attempt to define or solve the problem on your own.

To pinpoint the root cause of the problem, you can ask questions like:

  • “Why do you think we have a sales problem?”
  • “What are our most successful salespeople doing to sell this product?”
  • “What are those successful salespeople not doing?”
  • “Are there any marketing issues related to this problem?”
  • “Are we applying the same effective selling approaches that our competitors use?”

Again, you need to keep digging down to find the root of the cause. You also need to talk to all the people involved—people from the sales team, the marketing team, and other appropriate personnel—to get at the underlying issues. Be sure to talk with customers and potential customers too.


Insights from Evan Hackel’s latest book, Ingaged Leadership Meets the Younger Generation

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