People issues? 5 actions to take

Thought Leadership on an Execution Planning presented by GetBusinessMomentum.

The problem is always PEOPLE!Dean Harrington, CEO of Shamrock Financial, made that clear in a recent conversation I had with him and Colleen Ferrary, CEO of Small Business USA. So how do we — owners and CEOs of entrepreneurial small-to-midsized businesses — address this?

The answers are many, but here are five non-exclusive approaches that have proven to work.

1.        Create full clarity of responsibility

This is so obvious. Yet, in my experience working with tens of leadership teams, I’ve never found this done at the required level of crystal clarity. Even highly experienced, highly accomplished, highly successful CEOs don’t practice this fully. As Dean told us: “Clarifying what exactly each functional seat is responsible for was transformative for us.”

The simplest, most effective way to do it is to use a tool we call the Accountability Chart. It is one of the foundational tools of the Entrepreneurial Operating System. EOS™ was created by Gino Wickman. He describes it in his award-winning book TRACTION. In an Accountability Chart, every single Function specifies around 5 Roles and Responsibilities. Each is a short bullet point. This forces precision, careful thought and completeness.

2.        Hire on multiple areas of fitness

The dominant way we hire people into our organizations focuses on their skill sets. We look at what they have studied, learned, done, and accomplished. We look at what the Predictive Index refers to as “the briefcase.” Essentially, we look mostly at the stuff that changes, that can grow, that is ephemeral. These criteria are important, of course. But it’s far from the full story.

Another piece is to what degree that candidate embraces and displays our Core Values. Is s/he above the bar we set as the minimal compliance with these values? Dean recalled from a challenging period in his company’s history. He pointed that “We had a lot of turnover because we were hiring on technical skills, instead of value fit.”

Yet another piece is that person’s fitness to the job. In my practice, I use two complementary assessment tools. One is about the instincts that influence how we go about doing things: the Kolbe A™ Index, or Modus Operandi. The other is about the needs that influence what our behaviors are: the PI Behavioral Assessment™.

3.        Fix people issues soon and well

Most business leaders admit that People Issues are at the root of most of their challenges. Yet most will also do everything in their power to avoid fixing them, and fixing both soon and well. Colleen zoomed in on this topic by urging CEOs to “measure the Negative Cost of doing business.” Why? Because the cost of keeping someone in the organization when who does not embrace most of the Core Values most of the time is simply prohibitive!

Yet why do we do that? One answer is because we fear imaginary consequences. One way of testing whether our fears are imaginary is simple. Ask “if this person left today, would you be happy, sad or relieved?” Colleen was surprised at the answers she got from the team.

Bottom line is, as Dean aptly captured it: “You cannot throw ‘people spackle’ at your issues!

4.        Align everybody around a vision

As obvious as this one is, I encounter many CEOs who believe the contrary. Yet, the evidence to the contrary is clear. Reflecting on past times within his own company, Dean pointed out that “when there was no clear vision for the company, we were all working at 50% capacity.”

I’ve seen this evidence over and over. In a company running on EOS, we have a practice we call “Share By All.” Once a quarter, the Leadership Team teaches, in detail, the updated content of the 1-page strategic plan for the company. Every time the leadership team fails to do that, the company starts functioning sub-optimally. Once they resume the practice, almost miraculously things start speeding up again. It’s quite remarkable!

5.        Create trust so you can have constructive conflict

Last, and definitely not least, trust building is one key ingredient that reveals many and addresses some of the People Issues in a team. Building trust among a team’s members takes time, skill and effort. The ROI is however immense.

Why? As Colleen noted from her experience both leading and coaching teams: “We need a safe place for team members to engage in constructive criticism.” If you are familiar with Patrick Lencione’s work, you’ll immediately recognize the bottom two runs of his team dysfunctionality pyramid.

How do we build (or rebuild) trust? That would take a whole book to go through. One important observation: it’s a process, and never a single event. It’s a marathon, not a sprint In my own work with Leadership Teams, I do it in several, simultaneous ways. The one Dean noted that was very effective with his team was what he called my “orchestrating mini rock fights” among the team members during our sessions. No worries: nobody gets beaten up, everything is done in good spirit, and the results were, in Dean’s own words: “Once we broke through the barrier of trust, it was revolutionary for us!


The 60-minute conversation contained many more stories, points, lessons and tools. You can watch the video at:

Video link[]


Question: Which of these lessons will you take and apply in 2017?


  1. Learn about EOS. Learn how the EOS model helps you accomplish your vision. Here are a few introductory materials.
  2. Learn about Core Focus and Core Values. Learn further nuances of the Core Focus and Core Values of your company from Gino Wickman himself, in this 2-minute video. Then construct yours with the team you directly manage.
  3. Get It Free! Request a free 90 Minute Meeting. In 90 minutes, I will show you and your entire Leadership Team what the EOS is. I will demonstrate how it works. Finally, I will show you how I go about implementing it for businesses like yours.

The Entrepreneurial Operating System, EOS, Core Values, Accountability Chart, Shared By All are trademarks of EOS Worldwide. The Kolbe A Index is a trademark of Kolbe Corporation. The PI Behavioral Index is a trademark of The Predictive Index Inc.

Click here for more Thought Leadership from GetBusinessMomentum