Find the Problems and Fix Them

On a Monday night in June I was sitting in bed reading a golf magazine and I said to my beautiful wife Laura, “I’m going to design a golf course, and it will be made of bricks.”

She asked; “Bricks? How about grass?”

I replied, “No, bricks.”

“And who is going to help you?” she asked.

I said, “The people in this room.”

The next thing I remember is a paramedic bringing me into Good Samaritan Hospital in San Jose, Calif. I was having a transient ischemic attack — a mini stroke. The good news is I am still alive and still have my faculties, if you don’t count not being able to break 80 on the golf course since the episode.

The point of this little adventure is what happened when Dr. Rashkis came in to see me Tuesday morning. He said, “There is something wrong with you, and we are going to find out what it is and fix it.”

This is in sharp contrast to an incident a day earlier when the ER physician at a different hospital, seeing the same symptoms, ran a couple of tests, prescribed a blood thinner and sent me home saying, “We can’t find anything wrong with you or what to do about it.”

What followed in the weeks at Good Samaritan is the teamwork of five neurology and cardiac specialists who came together to aggressively locate the source of my problem.

After a battery of diagnostic procedures that included two angiograms, a CT scan, ultrasound, transesophageal, electroencephalogram, echocardiogram and an MRI/MRA, the problem surfaced as a faulty heart valve. They fixed it.

In your organization, your job is to find problems and fix them, right? Too many people in HR believe they are either there to offer a plethora of services hoping someone will use them, or wait for someone to ask for or demand a service and then react accordingly.

Maybe that was acceptable 30 years ago when the U.S. was the dominant player in a less competitive, smaller global market. Today every country from Australia to Zambia is in the global market trying to take some part of our share. We need to build aggressive talent management teams to secure our market position. This is not the responsibility of only the production and marketing teams. It is everyone’s duty to be aggressive.

You know as well as I do that talented people are the only active assets an organization has. As I looked around Good Samaritan, I marveled at the massive investment in facilities and equipment. I was fascinated by the capability of a micro camera to wend its way up my femoral artery to my brain to get pictures of cerebral activity, or lack thereof.

But all that technology would be useless without the knowledge and skill of the people to leverage it to fix my valve. It was the team of doctors, technicians, nurses and administrative support who were determined not to let me go until they found the problem and fixed it.

What have you fixed recently? Have you found the source of the deficiency in talent recruitment? Have you figured out a more cost-effective, innovative way to train people? Have you discovered what is keeping your employees from being more engaged? Have you come up with a solution to retain scarce, highly qualified talent?

When confronted with a life-threatening situation, it is natural to reflect on what one’s life adds up to and how one wants to be remembered. I want to be remembered as someone who pushed hard in the face of strong resistance to improve organizational life and didn’t make excuses or quit trying when I failed.

Will you be remembered as a trusted counselor or one to be ignored, as a high performer or an excuse inventor, as a leader or a follower, as a fixer or a fumbler? Will they say that you found reasons to not deliver or that you were someone who could be counted on to make it happen no matter what the odds were against you? At the end of the day, it is your, and only your, choice.