I visited the doctor recently because I was feeling terrible. My head hurt, I had a constant cough, my throat was sore, and I had a fever. First, the doctor listened to me describe my symptoms, giving him a general idea of what was wrong.
He then had me take a flu test and a strep test. The flu test came back positive. The flu! The doctor then told me my options: Theraflu, a steroid shot, or nothing at all. I opted for the steroid, returned home, and quarantined myself for the next week.
Through a very simple, yet specific, process my doctor pinpointed what was causing me to feel so badly. The key to healing my ailment was an accurate diagnosis.
Teams often “feel badly” for a variety of reasons. As leaders, we often jump right in and suggest or try different techniques to help our teams get to a healthier place. I believe we can learn from the medical field’s process of diagnosis, allowing us to more effectively assist our teams in dealing with the ailments they face. Let us look at three simple steps of the diagnosis process.
- Assess the symptoms — The first things my doctor did upon my visit were to listen to my description of my symptoms and observe my condition. Based on his observations, his knowledge of me as his patient, and his medical training, he was able to determine a course of action that would lead to a diagnosis. Listening and observing are also the first steps in assessing what may be ailing your team. Rather than making immediate assumptions based on what you see, keep digging until you know the root cause of the symptoms. What are the underlying issues?
- Employ the proper tool — After what he learned during his initial assessment, my doctor was armed with the information needed to begin to pinpoint the diagnosis. He used a flu test and a strep test to help him confirm what his assessment told him. Leaders can also employ tools to help diagnose the cause of presenting symptoms. There are many options at your disposal that may give you greater insight, such as team, strength, and/or personality assessments. Also, examine any data that you may have already available. This could include P/L statements, performance reviews, or other surveys. What does all of this data tell you? Does it confirm what you saw in the initial assessment?
- Develop a treatment and follow-up plan — After determining a flu diagnosis, my doctor offered some immediate treatment options. He then instructed me in steps to follow on my own. As a leader, you should follow the same format. First, figure out what immediate help you can offer . . . do something! Often, a leader will recognize the ailment, but fail to act and bring health back to the team. Second, instruct your team members as to steps they can take on their own. Healing may require a team meeting where solutions can be addressed. It could be that team members need to talk separately to heal a broken relationship. Whatever is the treatment may entail, help your team create a plan to enable them to move forward in a healthy manner.
The final thing a leader can do is to follow up with them team periodically to check their progress. Are they following through with their “treatment plan” or have they fallen back into old, unhealthy ways? We all want to see our teams be healthy, high-functioning, and engaged. Try taking a doctor’s approach the next time your team is faced with a health challenge.
By Russ Sarratt