“Decisions are similar to clothes shopping. If we buy something that does not fit well, we end up returning it at some point. However our decisions are never as easy to return and rarely is there a refund for time, money, or emotion”

This applies to any type of leadership decision such as adding someone to the team, a proposal to a customer/potential customer, how we handle an internal senstive situation, the strategy and execution plans we develop with our teams, etc.   What they all have in common is that the majority of bad decisions can be avoided if there is enough focus on the “fit” upfront.  The fit is about understanding and respect.   If the decision is one sided, so will be the level of effort that follows.  Qualifying, understanding and committing to the style, needs, and desires of others, leads to mutual long term motivation and success.  

This topic is so broad and applicable that I had a hard time picking from the volume of examples that came to mind.  So instead, take some time today to reflect on your own examples, which will help further ingrain this concept.  It might just help you make the right decision on something you are currently focused on.

Remember to ensure a fit before going to the cash register.  Are you sure you took the time to try it on and was it truly a good fit?

“Focus on negative events just long enough to learn the lesson”

Many of us focus on positive events only briefly, while letting the negative events take control of our thinking and emotions entirely too long; the lows are emotionally lower than the highs are high.  However, once the lesson is learned and steps are put in place to avoid the same thing happening in the future, we must move on and shift focus towards the brightest possible future.

Here are some things that happen when negativity lingers:  blaming others, deterioration of relationships, damage to organizational culture and motivation, no forward progress, etc.  None of these outcomes are productive, especially when considering they are caused by something that happened in the past.   The past contains our decisions which have already been made and the outcomes experienced.   Blaming others, letting relationships be damaged, etc. is all counter-productive and rarely changes the outcome.   The best way to put the past behind us is to make a new future and focus on doing it quickly.

There is an inherent lesson in every failure:  something we should not have done; something we should have done; someone we should have hired; someone we have neglected; an opportunity that was missed because we were not proactive; an unsuccessful strategy that was followed too long; etc.  No one wants to make the same mistakes over and over, and those that are on our teams expect us (just as we expect them) to learn and grow from each experience.   We must take the time to learn the lesson, but take only that time, and then move on to the next win.

By choice and through positive thinking, negative events can create positive outcomes.  Conversely, we can let them linger and create additional negativity.  Choose right – learn the lesson, fix the root problem, and move on as quickly as possible.   The team expects it.

“Plan for what you think, execute based on what you know”

Leaders are counted on for vision and execution.  Vision is how we see things in the future, and is typically impacted by our awareness of our surroundings and the identity of the organization (both current and what it has the potential of becoming).  Vision stretches years out and will change over time based on outside influences and the level of execution along the way.   It is what we think will happen.

Execution is a much more action oriented term.   We must execute each day/week/month, etc. in order to meet our plans and have a vision become reality.  There is always something to execute on and prioritization should be based on what we “know”.  If we know a certain area of the organization has the highest potential for success, then that is where the majority of the focus should be.

Here is a simple example:  I have a nine month old Golden Retriever.  I have a vision of being able to take her hunting with me and have her actually “retrieve”.  Right now she can sit, lay down, shake, kennel, and she even waits until I say the specific work “eat” before she will venture near her bowl.  These are things that we have executed on in her training.  However, when I take her outside all she wants to do is eat pine cones or she may go after a ball that is thrown, but will never bring it back.  Essentially, “retrieving” is not happening.  The problem is obvious – I am not executing on a daily basis in order to reach my vision.  So either that needs to change, or I need to change my vision and be content with her cool house dog tricks.   I think I will start working with her in the back yard this evening…..   

What we have to be most careful of is letting a blurred vision stifle execution.  We see/hear/learn things that change our vision, which is expected.   However, what is also expected is that our vision will adjust and be communicated to the team so that execution and progress continue moving forward in the right direction.  In summary, if the vision changes so should the message to the team in regards to execution.  Work/life is much more enjoyable when everyone knows the plan and has the right tools to succeed.

“Leaders and potential leaders both grow when responsibility is pushed to the lowest point possible”

Each level in an organization is in need of support.   The top of the org chart needs everyone below (and many others – they just may not be on a “chart”), and the levels below need all those above and below.  Efficiency is achieved when we allow those capable of taking on more responsibility to do so.  They must be capable, which is usually the reason for hesitation.  Every leader has witnessed both failure and success in giving more responsibility to others, and unfortunately the examples of failure are painful enough for us to hoard the responsibility rather than continuing to give others a chance.   However, leaders must be resilliant in order to keep growing.   We must accept that there will be both success and failure along the way, and never let the points of failure stop us from forward progress.   If there is a need in the organization and if capable individuals exist (smart, proactive, passionate, experienced, loyal/dedicated, hard working, etc.), we must continue providing opportunities – even if we have to find new ones.

Here are a couple of good check up questions to ask ourselves:

–          Are we hoarding more responsibility than necessary because of fear?

–          What responsibilities would be better handled by others? 

–          Who is capable of much more, and wants it?

People want to learn and grow (at least the types we desire to have on our team) and can actually become demotivated if they are not given the opportunity to do so.  And ironically, leaders can become burnt out and demotivated by not changing and shifting some of the responsibility where it makes sense.   The benefit in pushing responsibility to the lowest level is two-fold.  Leaders benefit because it helps free them up to focus on developing new initiatives to help the organization grow, while potential leaders need it to gain experience and grow to the next level.  It is a win/win and when we stop doing it, the organization is at risk of becoming stagnant.