The “Two-Brains” Approach to Solving Problems

A sketch of two heads with blocks arranged inside them to illustrate problem solving.

Every problem in your business is either a “process problem” or a “people problem.”

And your business has two sides: operations and audience. When you’re trying to solve a staff problem, your processes are your operations and your audience is the staff person in question.

In the previous post in this series, I shared the series of questions I ask myself when I’m trying to solve a problem with a team member. Today, I’m going to tell you how to take action after you’ve answered those questions for yourself.


The Growth ToolKit to Success


You must give the staff person absolute clarity: “You did it wrong, and here’s what I want you to do instead.” But you must also deliver that clarity in a way that encourages them to want to fix the problem (and to stick around).

Here’s how to do it, step by step.

First, book a Career Growth ToolKit session with your staff person.

Start with their Bright Spots: Ask them what they’re really happy with in their role.

Then ask for their ultimate goal. What do they want to achieve on the platform you’ve built for them?

Now we’ve started to rough in their future path to getting what they want. We’ve established Point B (where they want to go), and we’ve also started to get a sense of where they’re starting (Point A).

This is really important for context: We need to show them that correcting their current performance is part of a larger picture and not just a beatdown. We need them to know that we don’t think they’re a bad employee, just that some of their performance isn’t quite good enough yet. Looking at the big picture puts the focus on the “yet.”

Then you pull out your evaluation form.

Again, focus on what they’re doing well to start.

“OK, James, you want to make coaching your career. You’re off to a good start. You have great presence in class and you make good connections with our clients.”

Then highlight the best opportunities for improvement.

“If you want to get to your goals, our first roadblock is how you show up to class. You’re consistently running in at the last minute. That affects how clients see you—they think you’re disorganized or distracted. They’re less likely to want to book 1:1 time with you because they don’t see you as careful and prepared. Does that make sense?”

You have to frame the required improvement in a way that benefits them. This isn’t a laziness thing or a millennial thing: It’s just good marketing. Good leaders sell their staff on the benefits of doing things well.

Next, prescribe a very specific action.

“I want you here 10 minutes before class, clean, dressed, greeting people and organized for your class. I want you to tell me your class plan every day. Can you do that?”

Next, define a window for measurement.

“We’re going to try this for the next 90 days and then meet again to discuss your improvement.”

Finish on a high note.

“James, you’re a really strong coach, and you can go really far. You have great rapport and knowledge. The things holding you back have to do more with signaling and perception than actual skill or smarts. That means they’re easy to fix.”


Don’t Wait Until You’re Mad


The biggest mistake I’ve ever made in giving staff corrective feedback?

Failing to schedule their evaluations in advance. I hated giving them because I don’t like making people angry. But I failed to see them as a gift to my staff—so I’d procrastinate until I was really mad and couldn’t hold it in anymore. Then, of course, staff would hate evaluations as much as I did.

It’s OK for people to make mistakes. It’s not OK for people to repeat mistakes.

Create clarity, wrap it in kindness and let them deliver to the level that would make everyone proud.


Other Media in This Series


“When Staff Screws Up”
“Process Problems and People Problems”

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