“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.” Liberian proverb
When we fall, when we fail, we often immediately look at the point where we came crashing to the ground. We may blame our immediate surroundings; we may decide to stay on the ground and not get up; we may decide we can’t achieve our goals or that we need to change direction.
The issue with all of these reactions is that we’re reacting to the point we’re at – we are, in fact, potentially treating the symptom we’re facing, and not the root cause. We need to look to the point where we slipped – the challenge that caused (or helped cause) us to lose our balance in the first place. That is the point we need to address in order to move consciously and effectively forward.
We were once brought into a client to help a manager reconcile with her team. There were intense interpersonal issues between the team members and the manager, and this was impacting the team’s effectiveness. Team members clearly believed that their manager was a poor manager and had horrendous interpersonal skills. In their minds, she was “wrong” and needed to be fixed. In digging deeper into the situation, we found that there were clear style differences between the manager and the team members, and that these differences were causing many, if not all, of the misunderstandings. This was indeed the root cause – the spot where the team as a whole had slipped. By addressing these differences and developing skills for working with the differences, the team was able to move on to greater success.
Where in your work or your life are you addressing the symptoms, but not the causes? Where are you looking at where you fell, rather than where you slipped? Dig deep into a issue you’re facing to find the challenge that caused you to lose your balance in the first place – and find the tools, knowledge, and support to address that challenge directly.