Symptoms can mask the real problem


How many times do you get a solution that doesn’t address the actual problem? Today we’re talking about a series of situations where communication has broken down. A skilled facilitator can get you a good solution that solves the  underlying problem.

Diversity Training Doesn’t Work – Peter Bregman – Harvard Business Review. The article suggests that communications training is a better idea, which is really what the skills are. Note that the article comments reflect the divisive nature of the conversation. The symptom is that there is legal action because someone “felt misunderstood, mistreated, or disrespected”. 

Last fall, the people who attended Connecting Coffee talked about how some of their volunteers didn’t understand how poverty manifests in the families the volunteers are trying to help. What does that mean? It means a lawyer doesn’t understand why his pro bono client’s  phone is working one day and turned off the next. It means an unemployed woman gets 10 suits from an office of caring people, but what she really needs are tokens to get to and from interviews and daycare for her kids.

We also call this “cultural competency”. Is it the same thing as diversity training? Well yes, sort of. The curriculum is different, but we’re trying to get people to walk in someone else’s shoes.

The other day I heard about an agency looking for sample policies that describe when staff can and cannot contact board members with complaints. Sounds to me like they need to figure out where the Executive Director is in this scenario and why the board and the staff are trying to build and burn communication paths around the Executive Director.

Just like in the Harvard Business review article, communication training can go a long way.

A facilitator will be an outsider who can look at the symptoms without emotional or reactionary response. This person will also recommend solutions for the problem — not just the symptom.


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