89b61559-4f45-42ea-886a-62af7aebd368Problems. We all have ’em. Some of us even solve them, as long as we clearly understand what the problem is. And therein lies the problem.

Problems can be a positive thing — innovation and better ideas often come about as a result of solving a problem. The solution usually results from clearly understanding the problem, directly addressing the problem and agreeing on the determined course of action to resolve the problem. It’s a common sense approach that works… if the problem is technical or systems-based.

But solving problems becomes a whole lot more unclear and uncomfortable if the problem involves people. And, yes, the problem usually involves people.

When clients share their workplace or organizational problems with me, no matter what language they cloak it in; it almost always comes down to people. “People problems” create significant organizational dysfunction and can be productivity killers, from interpersonal conflict to under-performing team members to miscommunication gone awry.

But “people problems” are solvable too — as long as we accept that the problem is people-based and we have the courage to deal with it directly. As leaders, it’s imperative that we recognize a “people problem” when we have one and resolve the problem at the source.

Too often, that’s not what happens.

We’ve become so averse to addressing conflict that we try to resolve “people problems” indirectly, by implementing policies or procedures that (sort of) address the concern. I’ve seen organizations create rules, guidelines, policies and paperwork that attempt to “correct” the dysfunction rather than directly speaking to the person/people involved. And it can make the problem worse.

Avoidance in addressing a “people problem” will leave your staff feeling penalized and frustrated by your administrative “solution” and bitter that you haven’t addressed the real issue. Processes and policies don’t do much to change people’s attitudes and abilities. That takes leadership, in the form of coaching, conversation, and conflict resolution.

So step up, and when you know you have a “people problem”, courageously have the conversation, with honesty, compassion, and conviction. You’ll exhibit real leadership and demonstrate respect for your team.

Empowering change agent, Maureen “Mo” Douglas, practices radically positive public, workplace and leadership engagement. Click here for Mo’s FREE e-Guide to Better Public Engagement. Follow her on Twitter.