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What’s the Diagnoses?

A common definition for diagnose is: To identify and analyze the nature of (an illness or other problem) by examination of the symptoms.  Proper examination, understanding and defining of the “symptoms” leads to a sound diagnoses of the illness or problem. Once the diagnoses is in place some form of treatment is decided upon and administered to addresses the root causes of the illness or problem, thus not only eliminating the symptoms, but also treating the underlying causes.

This provides some great lessons for today’s professional leaders and managers. Like physicians, leaders and managers must possess the ability to diagnose.  Three lessons we can learn:

1. The diagnoses precedes the decision.  Before a prescription is filled, an operation performed, or a treatment plan is decided upon, a diagnoses must be in place.  Why??? In the world of medicine, deciding before diagnose could result in severe harm or even death to the patient.  In the world of leadership we harm our staff, we kill morale, we damage projects, we destroy opportunities by deciding before diagnosing.  Take the time to clearly understand the nature of a problem, before you prescribe treatment.

2. Treating symptoms and solving problems aren’t the same thing.  Medical professionals know the difference between a symptom and a problem – a runny nose is a symptom, the problem is some sort of virus or infection.  No prudent doctor will treat a runny nose by prescribing tissue paper.  Yes we need the tissue to wipe and blow our nose, but to solve the problem, we have to attack and eliminate the infection or virus – if not, we’ll just keep wiping our nose and the root cause will spread and get worse.  In the world of leadership we must do a better job of identifying and addressing the root causes  and not simply treating symptoms.  What viruses or infections are living in your organization that are being treated with tissue paper?

3.  Tell people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.  Great physicians are also great communicators.  They don’t over-promise, they don’t mince words, they don’t “spin” the issue.  If there’s an illness or problem that needs to be addressed they help paint a picture of what this process will look like.  It may be weeks, months, or years, but whatever it is, they tell you.  It may be painful, heartbreaking news, but they tell you.  It may be the last thing you wanted to hear, but they tell you.  Because they know they can’t treat you, you can’t recover, you can’t fight for your life if they don’t give you the real diagnoses.  They aren’t overly concerned with hurting people’s feelings – they tell us what we need to hear.  Prudence, integrity, and ethics demand that the physician tell us what we need to hear, it can be done with compassion and even love, but it must be done.  In the world of leadership when we have clearly diagnosed a problem with staff, structure, strategy, or resources we must have the courage to tell people what they need to hear.  What person, program, project or department do you need to sit down with and tell what they need to hear?  They can’t get better if you don’t tell them its worst than they thought.




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