In my work as a speaker and facilitator, I’m passionate about helping teams and team members tackle their biggest challenges. Over the past 6 years, I’ve surveyed my keynote and workshop audiences about their toughest issues. No matter what sort of organization I’m working with, the challenges they face are surprisingly similar.
It may come as no surprise that “a lack of time to get work done” is just as big a problem in nursing as it is in government; and “poor communication” is as rampant in the not-for-profit world as it in in private industry. It just goes to show that ‘people problems’ are universal.
Here are the top ten biggest challenges faced by a wide range of people and teams:
1 . Communication (or Lack Thereof)
Navigating different communication styles and the prioritization of communication in the office is a challenge most employees face. A lack of effective communication hinders a team’s efficiency and can also impact employee’s level of trust amongst each other and management. And although communication covers an array of office obstacles, I find this mostly comes down to managing different perspectives.
One powerful tool I share in my workshops is to use these three words: “tell me more”. While it’s useful when you don’t understand, this phrase is especially helpful even when you think you know what your colleague means or is trying to express.
2. Staying Engaged and Motivated
Only 32% of workers were reported as being engaged in their jobs in 2015. The majority (50.8%) of employees were reported as not engaged, and the remaining 17.2% were actively disengaged. These numbers don’t bode well for the workplace.
Engaged employees are cited as being involved in, excited about and committed to their jobs. Extensive research shows that a higher level of engagement among staff impacts a business’ innovation, productivity and profitability making this a priority for most managers. And it goes without saying that a lack of engagement translates to a lack of motivation.
3. Project Management and Organization
Even if you have a great team in place that is highly engaged and communicates effectively, chances are they are stumbling over the organization hurdle during projects. A lack of organization is up there when it comes to the challenges people share with me. Some of the feedback I hear is that there can be a lack of strong and consistent project management, or a lack of direction in their roles which makes it tough to organize and prioritize tasks.
4. Staff Attitudes and Hierarchy/Bureaucracy
Chances are we’ve all experienced this at one point in our career. Either we’ve had the misfortune of working alongside a disgruntled colleague that affects the mood and morale of the team, or we’ve struggled with systems that make it a challenge to complete a task because of all the red tape. Most employees say a balance between having clearly defined management procedures and allowing staff to be autonomous and to take ownership of their roles would improve attitudes and effectiveness.
5. Dealing with Change
Changes in the workplace can consist of anything from management and staff turnover to procedural changes or changes in clients. Either way, dealing with change in the workplace is another common challenge I hear. One thing that stands out for me when I hear this is the idea of challenging our assumptions. If something around us changes, are we able to challenge our assumption about what we think should be happening, or how this will affect us? This can be another really powerful tool.
6. Countering Negativity – Morale
Let’s face it, if even one of the above is present in the workplace there’s a good chance that morale is being brought down, and some employees have adopted a negative attitude. People share with me that negativity often stems from frustration. The more frustrations they face in the workplace, the more likely the are to become negative.
7. Ability to be Creative
It’s a challenge for anyone to be creative all the time. Generally, what we call creativity, ebbs and flows for most of us. I hear about challenges that come from employees that struggle to be creative all of the time.
Another insight that I hear is how helpful a change in scenery or employees having the flexibility to switch their work environments can be. Encouragement, collaboration and feedback have also been mentioned when it comes to staying creative.
8. Difficult Clients or Patrons
A difference of perspectives and communication styles can also cross over into relationships with clients and patrons. This is another common challenge that I hear, and an opportunity to challenge assumptions and find new solutions with a shift towards a greater mutual understanding from both parties. This is a great place to use the communication tool I mentioned above, asking clients or patrons, “tell me more” opening the dialogue towards a solution even further. Mention empathy?
9. Problem Solving
We tend to get caught in the ‘same-think’ rut. We approach problems over and over from the same perspective, then wonder why we fail to solve them. I suggest you approach problems through a lens of opportunity. What new perspectives can you adopt to help shift mindsets? And don’t forget to ask solution-driven questions.
10. New Skills and Professional Development
We all like to feel like we are accomplishing something, working towards goals both professionally and personally. This desire is human nature and exists in the workplace more than you would think. I hear from groups how acquiring new skills and furthering their careers in the workplace increases their overall engagement as well as job satisfaction. As a bonus it increases the collective knowledge of a team and in turn generates motivation and higher staff retention.
So there you have it – the top 10 challenges faced by people from a wide range of organizations. When you think of it, none of these are very surprising. Dealing with difficult people, adapting to change, and keeping people motivated are universal challenges. Fortunately, there are simple ways to face these challenges. Often, a great place to start is to challenge your assumptions about the cause of your specific challenges. By leaving your assumptions behind, you may find that you’ll discover innovative new ways to tackle your most pressing issues at work.