Think all Problems Need to be Solved Today? You are Throwing Away a Leadership Responsibility

 

Some problems never need to be solved and that’s fine.

Have you ever worked for a manager or a leader that had a journal, planner, or always had “that list” with them at all times?

When you saw them in the hallway, at lunch or outside of work, what was the first thing that popped in your mind?  Was it, “Oh no, what are they going to ask me about right now?” 

A True Leader Prioritizes

Unconfident and immature leaders have to be pushing on every issue, all the time, nonstop, 24/7.  They have no filter for what is really important and what is not. Everything is a priority and they want it all done now.  The A priorities and the C priorities get the same executive attention and discussion. They get satisfaction from checking things off their list and starting a new list. 

Frankly, that is not leadership.

I think they believe they are personally pushing everything that needs to be done through the organization and take great pride in the amount of work that their teams get done.  They can “list” all of the assignments that were completed the past week and month and look back on the list with a sense of false accomplishment.

As I reflect back on almost 40 years in corporate America, with 25 of those as a Vice President or higher, I can’t think of any of those type of leaders ever making a big difference on the business.  They might have had some incremental gains on the top line or bottom line. They might have moved the business forward a little. 

But they were never the leaders that accomplished great things, and honestly, they usually kept their jobs longer than some others because they stayed in the middle of the pack in their performance. This observation cuts across both the supplier and retail community.  It seems to be a problem no matter if you are selling or buying.

I once had a seasoned leader working for me. After the first month, I recognized a very predictable pattern:

A Leader Who Cries Wolf

Monday at noon-ish she would run into my office and describe a terrible problem we were having and demanded I call the VP-GMM of the customer and have them help us fix it.  As experienced leaders know, you only make those phone calls on the big issues or eventually they don’t answer the phone. 

By Tuesday afternoon, this issue was not quite as large as before.  By Thursday, it was even smaller. On Friday, she would come into my office and tell me how she solved the problem.  

This happened every week until we finally had a little chat about it.

This was a case where I did not need to solve her problem, ever.  It was an issue for her, but not for me. (At some point I will write an article called “Don’t Let Your Lack of Planning be My Crisis”).

Great Leaders Excel by Not Getting Stuck in on the Minutia

Leaders that operate in this, “every issue and problem needs to be solved today” mode do not excel as leaders.  They usually stay in the middle of the pack with their performance, and do not rise to the very top.

Great leaders do not want to stay in the middle of the pack with their performance.  They want to excel.

Great leaders want to solve the biggest problems that will have the biggest impact of the business.  They immerse themselves in the biggest problems. They surround themselves with the best and brightest people and push and teach the teams how to solve the big stuff.

They don’t really care if all the little stuff gets done or not.  They assume that someone will figure that out when it’s time.

Great Leaders Know What to Focus on Instead

Great leaders understand that by always working on every little problem, the organization and their best people don’t have time to breathe,  think, innovate and or dream.

Great leaders understand that their best people need time to think, to process, to dream, and imagine what the next big breakthrough will look like.  They give their teams the time to create, test, fail, learn and start over.

Great leaders give their teams time to truly become the best they can be and they give them the training, teaching and most importantly the space to do their best work.

Great leaders understand that not all problems need to be solved today. In fact, some problems never need to be solved.

 

And they can live with that.