The Actual Problem

When people start talking to you about the challenge at hand, what’s essential to remember is that what they’re laying out for you is rarely the actual problem.

Michael Bungay Stanier, The Coaching Habit

Let’s say one of your coaches is having trouble with another coach. Maybe the other coach is too loud or too quiet, maybe they park in the wrong spot, maybe they cook fish in the microwave every day at lunch. Doesn’t matter.

You could fix that problem - ask the other coach to park somewhere else, to eat chicken instead, whatever. It might do the trick.

But if some new problem emerges next week or next month, a new issue between these same coaches, it’s important to recognize that the problem might not be the problem.

It might be that the first coach is feeling self-conscious about his lack of experience when compared to his teammate. It might be that he’s seeing her classes get bigger while his get smaller. It might be that he noticed you’ve started taking her class instead of his.

Like with the easy problems, if you can identify the actual issue, you can solve it.

But only if it’s the actual issue.

Because it might be that your coach simply doesn’t feel safe - he might see the other coach as a threat to his livelihood, or a threat to his position in the gym, or a threat to his status with you.

It might be that, while you’ve been busy talking about chicken & parking spots & class schedules, he’s been wondering if you still value him at all.  

Some of our challenges are simple & straightforward to fix. But most of them aren’t. Your job as a leader is to figure out the actual problem in front of you, & to act accordingly.

SelfPatrick Cummings