People Problems 👫

Recently, I got the chance to talk to many c-level executives of different companies, big and small, about business, strategy and ideas. No matter what problem or challenge we discussed the root cause of each and every problem seemed to be people. This resembles my recent experience in a leadership role too. Not technology, not capital, not the market or the timing - it's almost always a people problems. Frustratingly so.

Turf wars, politics, egos

When I think of the german car industry or big german corporations, the first thing that comes to my mind is wasted potential. I was wondering so much why key apps or these companies sucked. Why critical services where so subpar. What drove huge decisions affecting thousands of employees and millions of customers that seemed so against my business logics. When breaking some of them down there was always someones ego involved. People that cared more about their own bottom line than what's good for the company or the purpose/mission of it.

Some people prevent progress only because they're not part of it

The most insane things I saw was people preventing obvious and immediate progress because they're not part of it. Or wasting hundreds of thousands of euros on projects that had no benefit to the customer or the company, only to the image of their department/team. People create silos and sell ideas to win budgets and go up the ladder. Collaborating to achieve something great together is not even on their radar.

Solving technical problems seemed so easy to me now. If I would want to trigger real change or create something new and big, I would have to solve people problems first. Always. And they are much harder than solving technical problems - at least to me.

Debugging: find out why someone is not on your side, dislikes the change or rejects you completely. Do you threaten their image? Would you make them obsolete? What are their goals? Would they not get any credit? In the past, even asking that stuff seemed like wasted time to me. If there is a great idea with great rewards for the business, why not just fucking do it? Because if you need other people, you need to solve the damn people problem.

Fix it in production: after finding why someone is not on board - get them to join you. Make it their idea. Make them part of it. Twist the outcome of whatever you want to do to also work towards their own goals. They might not deserve it but it doesn't matter. For the sake of achieving something better the people problem needs to be solved.

Be it getting new working machines, introducing a big new feature or shaping a new company after a merger - everything will be infinitely better when you can handle the people problems. Now I start to understand the importance of good leadership and the importance of "political" skills inside big companies. It shouldn't be necessary, but it is. And again, if you need other people to achieve something - you just gotta do it.

If you are able to let them achieve their goals by helping you achieve yours, you're golden.

Think about the goals of other people you work with. It might change how you approach them with your ideas.


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