The way you Do Problems becomes a Strong Indicator of How your Team Functions - Your Two Choices!

Updated: Feb 2

Teams, which are made up of people, have problems. When people are involved, problems are involved. Teams of people have two basic choices when problems show up. Many teams have imploded because of their decision to implicitly allow people to see problems through the EGO lens. Teams that prosper, function at a high level, and win consistently choose to see problems through the TRUTH lens, rather than the EGO lens.


This very simple differentiation is critical and has long-term consequences. We are not discussing holding people accountable or not holding people accountable here; that happens in either scenario. Rather, we are asking what Team-Focus will your group of people choose to implement, over time, to solve your team's problems?

When problems arise, does our team default to blaming the person they think was the culprit, or focus on finding the truth about the problem? Another way to view this choice comes by exploring the concept through two different words: WHAT and WHO.

When your team faces a new problem, do the members of your team look towards each other and focus on discovering WHO is the problem, or has your team developed the discipline to first explore WHAT the problem is and WHY it happened? If we find that somebody (WHO ) is directly responsible for initiating the problem (WHAT ), then we own this TRUTH and together help that person fix the problem. Here is where teams go wrong, though - instead of initially trying to understand the WHAT of the problem, they jump directly into an exploration of WHO did it. EGO gets in the way and people get bruised. If this happens often enough, your team develops a tendency to assume and the language that goes with it: “It has to be John again; he screwed up last time,” or “Accounting can never get it right.”

Training your team’s initial focus to be on the WHAT of TRUTH instead of the WHO of EGO is a definitive step toward giving your team a chance to win and giving you a chance to retain your best people!

Jenn and I have attended 3 Gottman Institute training seminars in Seattle, both to strengthen our own marriage and to encourage others. Drs. John and Julie Gottman are renown primary relationship experts. The most recent seminar we attended focused on the Masters of Marriage vs the Disasters of Marriage.

Through extensive research, the Gottmans have found that the Masters of Marriage do one thing very differently than the Disasters of Marriage. The Masters of Marriage choose early on not to see each other as enemies, but rather to see each other as teammates focused on solving problems together. If you are not married, feel free to see this concept through the lens of improving your closest relationships or becoming a brilliant team player. To use our language, the masters of marriage have chosen to check the logo on the front of their sweaters and, understanding that they play on the same team, choose to attack the problem together! Attack the problem, not the person.


What team energy does focussing on WHO was wrong, generate? What does this "accusation before understanding" approach do to trust? The saddest part of the way teams implode over an EGO focus is how easily it could be fixed with training focussed on replacing our initial accusatory language with the language of TRUTH.

Yes, WHAT happened and WHY did it happen sometimes leads to WHO did it, but this approach gives the space we need to view our people as our teammates instead of as enemies conspiring to expose the person WHO was wrong.

The team feel around personalizing begins to dissipate when we consistently use TRUTH/WHAT problem-solving. We develop the habit of replacing, “John’s the problem,” with: "John may have perpetrated the initial actions that led to the problem, but John is an important teammate of mine; I have his back, as he has mine. At this point, we can now focus on fixing the actions that created the problem. Great teams do not see their teammates as the problem.

My coach, Pat Quinn established the cultural atmosphere of our Vancouver Canucks team by living the words on the plaque in his coaches room: “A failed project is not a failed person.”



The quality of team energy that you feel on each of your teams often comes down to what you and your teammates collectively see as problems arise. Any team in the world can sustain high energy when everything is going well… your TEAM will be defined by its reaction when problems surface.

Are you looking for the root of the problem through the lens of the name on the back of your sweater (EGO) or the logo on the front of your sweater (TRUTH)?



At this point in our journey together, you are becoming experts in utilizing our Thinking Tendencies Model that will be the engine of our next book BREAKOUT, and how it specifically impacts team energy. Which kind of energy does building an EGO/WHO was wrong, finger-pointing, culture of blame, develop? When we decide to root out people instead of rooting out problems, our team energy dives deeply into the Defensive Zone, and our people lose trust in leadership and their team.

Alternatively, when we begin our problem-solving process in the Neutral Zone, we can suspend EGO and judgement, helping everyone to sense that justice will prevail. Finding out WHAT happened and then helping our people grow towards reducing this problem in the future, rather than trying to fix the person as we fix the problem, moves team energy well into the Offensive Zone, where we give our team a chance to win.

Team structure is not just for on-ice play. Team structure influences the way you play off the ice also; your game, your business, your family. The structure you choose, built either on EGO or on TRUTH, becomes a Strong Indicator of your team's future together.



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Would you like me to coach or train you and your team in 2021? Contact me!


Words from a client...


"Hi Ryan, I wanted to send you a personal message to thank you for the training session with our management team, it has left an indelible impact on me. I have booked meetings with my staff team over the next month and will be weaving in the concepts gleaned in the trainings.


My leadership style has always been one of coaching and mentoring. The idea that you shared about "if you can name it, you can fix it" and importance of language is such an important reminder for leaders.


It is easy to get caught in the business of work and not take time to pause and be deliberate. To build sound self awareness through the active practice of positive brain muscle memory. I hope that these concepts can spread through the agency like yeast in a rising bread."


Do you want this for your team? Contact me!



SHORT SHIFTS with Ryan Walter - Ryan's new way of adding value to you and your family Every-Monday-Morning in 2021. Learn more about SHIFTING today's Mindset in order to WIN tomorrow's GAME! https://www.ryanwalter.com/short-shifts

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