Sometimes we hide from it. Sometimes we do ‘other’ activities, instead. Sometimes we can put it off…for years. But eventually there comes a time where it’s necessary to face the cold, hard, brutal reality of a situation.
Normally it comes after reaching some kind of tipping point. For instance, the past couple months I’ve been dealing with a nagging problem on my laptop. When using some particular combination of applications, it ends up getting incredibly bogged down. Normally a reboot, or two, will alleviate the problem. Along the way, I’ve spent fifteen minutes here, thirty there, and so on, as I’ve tried to diagnose the problem.
And this is what so many do either personally, professionally, or both. Nursing things along, applying yet another band-aid to the current issue so it can live to get yet another band-aid tomorrow. The challenge is in being able to raise one’s head up, looking beyond the issues of the moment, and see a bigger picture.
How much time, energy, productivity, is lost applying each band-aid? Day by day, we each make a series of ‘correct’ decisions. Perhaps we’ll find a new, updated driver to install on the laptop. Perhaps we’ll counsel a problematic employee some more. Perhaps we’ll spend $500 to repair a printer. Perhaps we’ll try to tweak our search engine optimization some more. Day by day, tactically, these are all perfectly acceptable.
Question is: At what point do you remember to raise your head, look about you, and realize you’ve been doing employee counseling for months; it’s the 14th driver update for the laptop; a new printer costs less than the old one’s repair bill; or, that it’s a branding issue not SEO? (By the way, these are the classic situations where mentors, consultants, or other trusted external parties are of greatest value—they can immediately see what you’ve missed.)
If you’re like me, sometimes you have to consciously remind yourself to stop, and, look up. It’s easy to get buried in the here and now. As a leader, you simply must keep the big picture in mind.
So, this past week, I realized it was simply time to rebuild the laptop. At some point, I concluded it was no longer worthwhile to keep trying to fix what a less than ideal situation. Could I have kept nursing it along? Yep. Would I have ever been satisfied with a final solution—if I found one—keeping in mind how much effort it required? Perhaps.
And so this is the same thing each of us needs to be mindful of personally, and professionally. It is fine to regularly maintain something. But sometimes we need to see if it is real maintenance we’re doing, or nursing something along, well after it’s time for a more significant action to be taken.
Leadership is facing cold, hard, brutal reality, recognizing a need for change and acting on it.