“If you wait, all that happens is you get older.” – Larry McMurtry
Sometimes as leaders we deal with issues head-on. We know there’s a problem, we figure out exactly what the problem is, we identify possible solutions, we choose the one we think is best, and we implement it. We get people involved who can help and, as a team, we get the job done.
But that’s not every time. That’s not even most of the time. More often than not, we get about halfway through that process and things come to a halt. We know what we could do, even what we should do, but then we don’t do it. Why?
It’s not laziness. I’ve seen leaders attempt to solve problems by taking on initiatives that are ten times as much work as other possible solutions which the leader knows are actually more likely to succeed. And these aren’t dumb people. Why would they do that?
There are a number of answers, but the one that I run into more than any other, especially over the past year or so, is simply avoidance. Solving problems, almost by definition, can and does create conflict. It might be with an employee, a vendor, a customer, the government, whomever. And as leaders (people in general) we’re so conflict averse that we’ll try just about anything to avoid it.
Think about yourself as a leader. Think about issues you know your business is facing. What are you doing about them? Are you actively trying to fix them? Do you know what the resolution to that issue really looks like, but you just haven’t implemented it?
Wait a minute, some of you might say. We can’t just go around making people angry all the time. We have to be more subtle than that. We have to try & inspire people to do things, let them find the solutions, etc. It’s not that easy.
All of those things are facts. They’re also all great excuses for avoiding problems. There are times when, as a leader, you do have to step in and make things happen. You can’t just be hands off all the time. In that case, why would the company even need you? They could get rid of you & save a bunch of money.
The issues you are facing as a leader aren’t just going to go away, and hoping for that isn’t much of a strategy. You may not want to be a dictator, but you do have to be a leader. Take a look in the mirror and think about what you’re doing. Are just getting the leader’s pay? Or are you actually leading?
A little bit of stress is healthy but too much is dangerous. One of the early warning signs of too much stress is the behaviour of procrastination. People procrastinate in part due to a fear of failure. They think doing nothing is better than doing something wrong. I tend to be more of an incubator that a procrastinator. A procrastinator leaves things to the last moment with the result that they miss the deadline or produce poor quality outcomes. An incubator leaves things to the last moment but the quality of the outcome is above average. They never miss a deadline. We have a choice as to which behaviour to adopt.