Now that I have your attention, you are probably wondering, ‘What the heck is this all about? Shouldn’t it be “don’t focus on the symptoms, find the root cause”?’
Let’s unpack the analogy a bit.
When we look at the problem, all we tend to see is the superficial symptom. But do we ever wonder how it got there in the first place?
It’s important to have a look at the symptom with a magnifying glass and not dismiss it altogether when trying to find the root cause. Even then, the root cause may not really be the root cause after all.
Let’s say you go to a doctor with an autoimmune disease, such as celiac. If you have a skin rash because of the disorder, a traditional doctor will treat the symptom with medication. Another approach would be to go to a holistic doctor who may then look at your DNA and see if it’s a genetic issue. Then, they may send you to a nutritionist to help you change your way of eating.
In their eyes, they have addressed the root cause.
All that really matters is making great teams
To put it into perspective, let’s shift gears a little and change the environment altogether.
For example, consider a workplace where teams don’t feel psychologically safe to stand in their truth and have a voice. They are left feeling undervalued, untrusted and micromanaged. Therefore, they feel like they don’t belong.
From my experience, most of the time, the focus is on the ‘team’ and on what they are not doing. That’s the root cause of the symptoms.
What if, as a leader, you always seek within and utter the words, ‘what did I do to create this?’ Or, for those that are visual, what if you look in the mirror and acknowledge the person who is actually responsible for the situation?
I know. You are probably sitting there cringing. Well, that is true ownership, accountability and power.
You are responsible for the system.
It’s not all in your head
In my case, as most of you know, the symptom is my ongoing dance with anxiety, and the root cause has been many. My personal journey of self-discovery in the quest of finding an answer has me exploring questions from many professionals, like:
‘What kind of trauma did you experience as a child?’
‘What kind of significant emotional events took place in your life?’
‘Are you overwhelmed and working too hard?’
And the list goes on…
Working with the root cause led me on a journey of different healing methodologies, trying every single modality you could possibly imagine.
But what if we looked at the symptom itself? Anxiety. Could it be that the body is responding this way because it is fighting an infection or inflammation of some sort?
Recently, I was exposed to some very important information that was quite life altering. A documentary called Root Cause – which unravels the dangers of having a root canal – really opened my eyes. I won’t go too much into the documentary. See it for yourself and you can be the judge of the statistics that they share from numerous medical professionals.
But it got me thinking. If only we could invest more time in the symptom, then, just maybe, we can get to the real situation at hand.
A symptom is anything that happens as a result of a problem
Let’s go back to the workplace. If we invest time with our team members to understand their pain points instead of having a blanket approach in everything that we do, we may just find that the root cause is not the root cause after all. Quite the opposite.
Our dearest mentor Einstein clearly spells it out for us – ‘We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them’.
What is that telling us?
We have to move away from the situation altogether. Sometimes, we have to get someone else involved that was not part of the problem to see it from a different perspective.
Instead of blaming others for the issue or blaming situations, what about looking at ‘how did I create this problem in the first place?’ and ‘what have I done that could result in the symptom?’
Accountability and ownership breed responsibility
As a leader, whether it has anything to do with you or nothing to do with you, if you take extreme ownership, then there is no one else to blame. If you empower your leadership style by taking responsibility and leading the way, it creates an abundance of opportunities.
And what do you think that is going to do for your team?
The only way to accomplish that is to communicate with your team. I am not talking about barging in there with amplified confidence to talk to them. I am talking about walking into a room with a gentle, curious approach to find out what their pain points are and address each one individually.
If you put everyone in the same basket, your team will be unmotivated. They will be disengaged. They will be unproductive.
And they will not speak up because they don’t feel safe to speak up.
A true leader is one that is humble
If you walk into a room with all your mighty confidence and do all the talking, you will never learn from your team. They are the ones on the ground doing all the work and interacting with other team members.
At the end of the day, they are the ones driving the results for your organisation.
If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough. As a leader, your role is to be able to break it down in little chunks and then engage with your team.
C. S. Lewis once said, ‘Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less’. If we apply leadership in everything that we do, we are being 100% accountable and we are being of service for our teams.
Some would say a bottom-up approach allows for more experimentation, understanding and a better feeling for what is needed, as opposed to top-down approach.
Personally, I don’t believe in hierarchy.
We are all leaders.
Once we start treating each other like leaders, only then we are on the merry way to authentic success.