How To Triage Problems

In any organization, problems will appear on a daily basis.  Some days in leadership, it seems that all you do is deal with the problems. When you look back at the end of the day, it is difficult to see any progress made because you feel like you have been putting out fires all day long.

But what if there is a better way to deal with problems?  What if there is a simple question that could help to triage the problems that present themselves?

Is this problem a cold or a cancer?

If it is a cold, we treat it like we do when we get a cold.  We watch it and expect it to run it’s course and things return to normal.  We may treat the symptoms and recognize it will affect us for a short time.  And we monitor it to make sure it doesn’t get worse or spread and cause other problems.  

If it is a cold, we don’t disrupt the entire organization or develop new policies to keep it from happening again.  Colds will happen again, and we will complicate our ministries if we try to develop a policy for every “cold” problem.

But if it is a cancer, we must seek to get to the root issue, deal with the problem aggressively, and develop a long-term treatment plan. Sometimes that means having a crucial but difficult conversation with staff, volunteers or board members.  Sometimes, that means addressing infrastructure concerns.  Sometimes, that means changing systems and policies.  

When we realize we are dealing with a “cancer” problem, we must expect that it will disrupt our normal.  Things will not be the same for a period of time.  

Two common mistakes in dealing with problems:

When you deal with a cold like it is a cancer, your leadership is distracted and your team feels jerked around over a minor issue.  Your team will stop bringing problems to you, because they begin to fear the over-reaction to the problem.

When you deal with a cancer like it is a cold, you stop leading and your team will stop engaging.  By refusing to define reality and deal with that cancer, you risk your ministry dying a slow and painful death.  It always takes much long to recover from a “cancer” problem that has gone untreated.

What adjustments do you need to make in your leadership?  What do you need to clarify in your vision and strategy so that your team can help you deal with problems effectively.

Have you considered engaging with a coach to help? Virtual Coaching Groups are forming now for January 2018 and space is limited to 40 leaders. Learn more and save your spot!


Written by MV Coach Kevin Yoder

Kevin enjoys helping organizations increase their capacity in fulfilling their mission.  He loves strategic planning and developing the systems and tools needed to accomplish the mission. He currently serves at Rivertown Community Church (RCC) as Multi-site Ministry Systems Pastor.  In this role, he develops and supports ministry environments for the campuses of RCC by developing strategy and effective systems. RCC is a multi-site church with campuses in the rural panhandle of Florida.

Prior to being a pastor at RCC, Kevin served 12 years as principal of a Christian school and as a consultant for Christian school curriculum. Kevin has served on several nonprofit boards and helped to launch a nonprofit.  He is now RCC’s liaison to support local ministries.  He is passionate about networking those ministries to work together and about helping them accomplish their mission in the most effective way.

Kevin lives in the panhandle of Florida and loves spending time with his family and especially his wife Lisa.  Lisa has led on church staff and now serves in Family Ministry at RCC.  Their three children are all in college — Gordon is a graduate student at University of Florida, and Heather and Kristi are both at Chipola college.