“Taking a short cut in business is similar to remodeling your house. The cost is more than expected”

Leaders embrace this concept and remember it when tempted to take the easy route.  It equally requires maturity to recognize and accept responsibility when a short-cut has been taken and resulted in additional cost.  The additional cost can come in many different forms to include, monetary, customer good-will, reputation of the organization, or the unnecessary use of additional resources (which is also monetary when considering opportunity cost).

And when things end up costing more, people tend to start focusing the blame on others.  Sometimes deserved and sometimes not, but it is almost never the fault of one person or entity.  Even at times when placement of blame seems obvious, there are usually things (short-cuts) that happened in the past that should be considered.   And many times it was because the side that considers themselves to be in the right, may have failed to mention something, provide enough information, or could have unkowingly provided the wrong information.   In these situations Leadership shines through when instead of getting frustrated and placing blame, the focus is first put on ones self to consider what might have been done wrong and needs improvement in the future – and then to move forward, fix the situation, and improve so that it has less of a chance happening again.  

Most problems can be avoided by being thorough.  One example is in setting customer expectations.  When they let us know their needs and ask if we can satisfy them, our answer is typically positive if we have done a good job with our product/service offering.  When they start asking specifics as to how we meet their needs, this is the time that we should go the extra mile and illustrate to them how we can meet their needs, and be sure to address the areas where they are being specific.  While it is true that we can provide them with a “x”, we may go about it a different way than how they envision.   The short-cut would be to “bend” the solution to try to meet their vision exactly.  The thorough way would be to explain our approach and win them over as to why we take that approach (assuming again that we have done a good job with our product offering and keeping it at the top of the list in terms of competition).  By taking the short-cut we open ourselves up to more work later when customer expectations are not met, and it can result in frustration and finger pointing from all levels.   By being thorough, the process stays smooth and we likely even differentiate ourselves.

There is that old Leadership saying – “The only thing constant is change”.  The same goes for problems.  They will come, but we can control how frequent they are and how long they stick around.   If we continuously deal with the same problems we are allowing unnecessary costs.  Most important is self awareness and correcting problems at their root, rather than allowing ourselves to immediately focus on something/someone else as the cause.  Blame is rarely one-dimensional, especially if short-cuts were taken at the onset.

“Good judgment requires more than surface level observation”

Ever hear “Don’t judge me”, or “I am not judgmental”, or “it is unfair to judge…..”?  Fact is that we do judge.  We judge other people, organizations, ourselves, and just about everything else around us.    It is human nature to be opinionated about our surroundings.   Some of us are more openly opinionated than others, but regardless, we all pass judgment and develop opinions.  We even pass judgment on other peoples judgment – ironic, huh?  

Leaders differentiate themselves by taking the time to ask the right questions and to dig deeper before passing judgment.  They have a sense of maturity and strive to be someone that others would classify as “having good judgment”.   In addition, the decisions that Leaders make tend to have results that have an exponential effect.  Therefore, it is unaffordable to make decisions on the back of bad judgment.  The decisions leaders are faced with can range from how we should react to a specific situation/individual, to what needs to be done to prepare the organization for the next five years.   Each situation has varying levels of priority and complexity, but all require more attention than just skimming the surface.

Here is an example that most can relate to…….. Consider a situation where an individual/organization has done something that really surprised us.  It actually hurt our feelings and/or made us think about them in a negative way.   The majority of individuals would write the other side off right then and there.  It is common for relationships to go sour over a build-up of misunderstandings/miscommunication.   It is easier to just get mad and possibly retaliate, than it is to confront the situation, and when it is easier that is the way most people go.   But this is not acceptable because more is expected of Leaders.   When something like this happens we should think through a number of things, such as if the other side is a good person/organization and has been trusted in the past, or why they might have said or done such and such.  Additionally, we should ask ourselves if our actions may have potentially led to the situation.  It is arrogant to automatically think that we are being wronged and that the other side is just awful.  The next step is confrontation, which typically comes with positive results, while taking the easy route and avoiding it eliminates any potential for resolution.  Lack of confrontation builds walls when we should be focused on knocking them down.    Adding to the irony is that the majority of people/organizations are not “bad people”.  They are good and have good intentions.  Taking the extra time to investigate reveals this and is typically time well spent.

Larger issues require more observation and investigation before we can really pass judgment and make decisions.  What is important is that we take the appropriate amount of time before acting/reacting.

On another note, Leaders tend to be very busy which makes it easy to fall into the habit of making quick decisions.   With additional volume, we must be careful to maintain the quality of those decisions, which requires good judgment.  And good judgment requires thinking, asking questions, maturity, and patience.  Never stop taking the time to dig below the surface.

“The most important thing about change is timing”

Change is one of the most popular topics in Leadership. We hear that stagnent organizations never change, and that the people in those organizations are totally against it. We hear that to be successful, we must change and adapt to the current and future environment, and we hear that it is us as leaders that are responsible for identifying and envoking change. All of this is true, but the act of “changing” something can be disasterous if it is done at the wrong time. The right change at the right time is a winner, whereas the right change and the wrong time is uneventful.

Change must be thought out. It must be planned. It must be sold, and it must be done in context with the environment and current/future demand. Change can be very frustrating because it feels like nothing happens fast enough. Our first thought is, here is what we have to do, lets go do it – no brainer. The reality is that change does take time, and how/when we roll it out determines the success of executing and achieving the organizations’ new goals.

The larger the organizaton, the more time it takes to make changes because bigger usually means less agility. Take politics for example. Each candidate is pushing for some sort of change(s). They start off by planning what changes they will push, and then spend most of their time selling those changes to the consituents. If they push the wrong change at the wrong time (an unpopular change) or via the wrong media, they will lose. It is obvious who the real candidates are once you hear what they are pushing and see how they are going about it. These candidates likely gain the buy-in by supporting the right issues at the right times. However, one bad thing about politics is that the changes do not happen until years after they are voted on, or maybe that is a good depending on the issue. At any rate, not trying to fix politics here, just giving an example.

Some large organizations are able to remain very agile, or at least they appear to be. They may use some sort of “change-management” methodology to help them streamline change, or they may be throwing so many people at things that they are more efficient than their competition. Take Apple for example, they seem like fast paced innovators to all of us, and rightly so. They likely have the culture and the processes to support change even though they are a large organization. And one thing they surely focus on is the timing of launching products. How long ago do you think they first had the vision to create the “iPad”? Is it conceiveable that they had the idea before the Amazon Kindle was released and they continued to develop and wait until the market became educated on these tabular devices? Knowing that the launch would be even more successful if they could offer value and features that are far superior at a similal cost? The public needed to be ready for it and Amazon may have just helped educate the market and prime the pump. Who knows, but it would not be surprising because Apple knows the power of timing.

Timing is everything. If we are unsuccessful in making a change that we are certain is needed, we must regroup and move forward executing. There is only a window of time and if it shuts on us, the opporutnity for a positive impact is lost. Be hungry, be thorough in getting buy-in, and then execute at the right time.