Diagnose the right problem

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

Putting out fires is stressful. But in a way, you’re lucky to race around dealing with flaming crises: You don’t need to spend valuable time dissecting a multifaceted problem to determine the core issue that requires your attention.

Some crises come to a slow boil. The cause is not readily apparent. Rather than put out a raging fire, you’re faced with an ongoing, simmering hazard that’s complex and shrouded in ambiguity.

In these situations, sweep away your biases and evaluate the facts on their own terms. Take a lesson from Marv Tseu. He’s chairman of Plantronics, a global maker of lightweight communications headsets. The company’s products were used in astronaut Neil Armstrong’s famous “One small step for man …” transmission from the moon in 1969.

In his 30-year career, Tseu has served on many corporate boards. He has learned the importance of identifying cause-effect relationships in confronting and overcoming organizational challenges.

“Boards tend to focus around a company’s leadership, because that’s where the board can effect change,” Tseu says. “There’s a tendency for boards of struggling companies to focus on replacing the CEO. You have to reject that knee-jerk reaction, look at a whole series of structural and operational business issues and separate those issues from the individual in charge.”

This rule applies whenever you face a tough management decision. Digest all relevant facts, consider all sides of an issue and confirm that you’ve identified the key drivers that will influence the outcome.

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