All projects, plans and strategies are implemented with the best of intentions. We get started. We pay attention and we follow up. Then something else happens and we have to work on it. Then another thing occurs, and another, and another. In short business happens, and we lose track of that which we were following.
It is easy to assume, or hope, that someone will step up and make sure that nothing gets dropped. You need to remember that the someone responsible for that is you.
We are in a multi-tasking world, but that does not relieve us of the responsibility of finishing what we start. It does not matter how well a product, project or plan is worked if it is not brought to conclusion. It is the end game, the result that is important and what is ultimately measured. Just as new products, projects and programs get started, old ones must be completed.
Bringing something to completion or closure is a way of measuring progress. Everything else is activity. We have a tendency to sometimes confuse activity with progress. I think Yogi Berra was right. It ain’t over till it’s over, and it falls to the leader to make sure that it is in fact done.
One of the key aspects of being a business leader is that it falls to you to make the final decision. It doesn’t matter what the topic is; Sales, Investment, Expenses, etc. It is your call, and you have to make it. Don’t shirk, equivocate or delay. Make the decision.
That doesn’t mean that you must shoot from the hip. On the contrary, you need to consult your team, as they are closest to the activity that will be affected and will have some of the best insights and suggestions. You will need to do your research and take into account the objectives that you (and your team) must meet as well. I have found that the 80 / 20 rule can be applied here as well. You will get 80% of the information you need in 20% of the allotted time. Once you have your information you must make your choice and go. Be decisive.
Not everyone is right all the time. However, a wrong decision can be corrected. A team that is active and performing can change its direction and continue performing. A team that is waiting on a decision is not active and performing. It will always take more time to get a stationary team moving that it will to get a moving team headed in a new direction.
We have all heard the phrase “paralysis by analysis”. This is the case where in the drive to make no wrong decisions, you end up making no decisions at all. You achieve your personal objective of making no wrong decisions by making no decisions. You also miss the opportunity and business need for making as many right decisions as possible.
I mentioned in an earlier post that two of the essential traits for a successful leader to have are being opinionated on, and having a passion for your business. The counterbalancing trait that will also be required is composure. Being passionate and opinionated can make you a strong and decisive leader. Lacking composure will make you appear to be a rash and foolish manager.
It is always better to act in a measured way than to react in any way. Coming off as a hot head will greatly decrease your effectiveness as a leader. Maintaining your composure in the face of difficulties will present a much stronger image and leadership trait for your team to follow.
Maintaining a calm demeanor while demonstrating a passion for your business is a difficult balance to achieve and maintain. The key items I try and keep in mind are:
There comes a time in every business leader’s tenure that we
feel the urge to participate in a debate in an open forum. We can be involved
with senior management, peers or subordinates. The issues can be competition
for resources, strategic business directions, or just about anything at all. Entering
into the debate can be a very difficult urge to fight. The value of these types
of public debates is minimal, but the damage that can occur to ones public
perception can be significant.
Before engaging in a debate, it pays to remember a few
items. Everyone believes they are correct. No one enters into an argument
believing they are wrong. Most arguments are not black/white, right/wrong
propositions. They probably shouldn’t be forced into that mold either. The
“winning” or “losing” of the public debate will be forgotten over time, but the
perception of being combative or argumentative will stay with you for a long
Management looks for leaders that are opinionated and
passionate about their work. They recognize that those traits are keys to a
leader’s success. They also recognize that leaders must work together. If
forced to choose, management will normally select the less confrontational
business leader who can avoid the public debate, and appear to build consensus.
If there is going to be a debate, it needs to be in a private forum, not a
It is a fine line to walk, but it can be done. Learning to disagree politely and constructively in public is an art. I wish I was better at it.