People vs Process How to Discover the Real Problem in Your Business.

People vs Process How to Discover the Real Problem in Your Business.

I had a coaching call recently with a client who was upset that her employee started her own Instagram account sharing all of the dogs and cats that she was caring for. Understandably, the business owner was emotional over it as she has had two past staff members start their own companies. She felt threatened and betrayed by this staff member and was contacting me to find out what to do about it.

My first question to her was, “What does your handbook say about social media conduct in your business?” 

Oops! She didn’t have one. Just the generic clause that says something about keeping the client’s information private and that all trade secrets and marketing materials are the property of the business.

This situation is more common than you may realize. A lot of companies haven’t addressed the ever-growing social media space where we have phones that could record and document just about everything we do, including inside our client’s homes.

For many, it is unclear about how and when we are allowed to use our devices and how that affects or helps our job. If we are not explicit in our handbook about what process needs to take place when capturing images, then we simply cannot hold our staff accountable to anything and thus can’t get upset.

This brings up the major distinction we need to address when on the verge of getting upset at our staff:

Is it a People Problem or a Process Problem?

people vs process problempeople vs process problem

Anytime you start feeling all the feels over a situation in your company, as a leader, I want to ask you to slow your roll enough to ask yourself “is this a people problem or a process problem?”

What do I mean by that?

If you have a people problem on your hands, chances are you already have laid out specific processes in order to complete tasks in your company. You have given explicit instructions via written, verbal, video, etc and have drawn a clear picture of what success should look like. It is just the person who has chosen not to follow what you have outlined or their poor attitude or insubordination just simply contributes to their poor performance of a task.

If you have a process problem, it might appear that it is a person if you think that they just didn’t do it right. But that is rarely the case. If we look closer to see if you have given accurate instructions one can see that perhaps the staff member was unclear on what they needed to do. Or maybe they understood it one way but you actually intended for the finished product to be different.

Let me help illustrate with a few more situations. See if you can relate to any of these:

people problem or process problem

Pet Sitter Eats The Clients Cheese

Sounds like a pretty silly headline right? But it is true. A few years back we had a very popular discussion inside my Facebook group about whether a staff member should be fired for eating cheese from the client’s refrigerator. (Really, I can’t make this up) 

“A client called a pet sitting business owner furious because he saw their pet sitter on his nanny cam eat a piece of cheese from the refrigerator while there for a daily dog walk. This sitter was a top sitter at the company and seemed to be a great employee.”

Now if we lead with emotions, we can absorb the anger from the clients and spew the fire to our staff and ask them “Why did you do that?” Or we could take a deep breath and think, “Is it prohibited to eat anything from the clients home while on visits? Or could the client have given the impression to the sitter at any point that it was okay?”

As a manager, we need to look at the facts. If you did have a clause in your handbook that prohibited any food or beverage to be consumed that wasn’t brought into the home by the sitter – then this would be a people problem. The sitter was not following your process.

The Sitter Who Requests Too Much Time Off:

Ever have that sitter who is constantly telling you they need days or times off? What do you do? How do you react? To see if this is a people problem or a process problem, ask yourself, “Do I have a time-off request process?” Do they need to request and then you approve or deny? Do they have to find someone to cover their shift? Is there a cut off time when they can request? What does your handbook tell them to do? If it doesn’t address this, it is a process problem that we need to establish within your business and add to the handbook.

When this is established clearly in your handbook and the staff member is always requesting time off, then you can cite the handbook process and blame it on that. If this person is rejecting your process or not following it, then it is a people problem. At which point you have other decisions to make, like redefining their availability or cutting back their hours.

text pet sitter

Too Many Texts Asking You How To Do Their Job:

Feel like your phone notifications won’t stop dinging to alert you to a new email or text and it is from the same staff member asking questions? Ask yourself if you have addressed this in your handbook or processes. If you haven’t, that is a process problem and be thankful that it is offering you an opportunity to solve this problem so it doesn’t happen again. Address it in your handbook.

You will know if it is a people problem if you can keep referring them back to the handbook. Perhaps some additional 1:1 coaching is needed from you or your manager with them. If it has been explained before it is an opportunity to coach them. Say things like, “How could I have been more clear on what is expected?” or “Where do you feel we are experiencing the disconnect?” Typically these phrases will encourage positive and open dialogue so you can work together. If they just aren’t getting it, or the information isn’t sticking it might be time for a write-up. If you have clearly defined the process or what success looks like, then it is a people problem.

Being a Great Leader In Your Company

Being a great leader in your company is a tough thing to do because we have built our businesses from the ground up with our blood, sweat, and tears. Often times we want to react and get emotional about things that we feel like everyone should know because we have known them forever. After all, that is why we are the business owner, right? Just don’t forget that not everyone has been doing it as long as we have been AND that getting our processes all written out is often difficult because we forget to include some things. Try to learn from every experience, check your emotions at the door, and ask yourself, “Is this a people problem or a process problem?” It will help you every time.

Process problem - employee handbook and manual