“Slow Down, you Move too Fast”… so go the wise words of Simon & Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song” ……
Many people are inclined to jump to action rather quickly. After all, isn’t this what people feel they are being paid for? To make decisions, to be decisive, to act !
Acting, in my experience, is rarely the biggest problem we face within our boardrooms, executive groups and operational teams. Our businesses and organisations are replete with people who plan, manage tasks, monitor activities, schedule, organise and control. I don’t sense that we need to build more skill in these areas.
The bigger challenges that face our business leaders are in the quality of conversations they undertake, their depth of problem analyses, and their ability to reach universal agreements on what actually needs to be done to bring about the major changes that will transform our businesses and organisations to turnaround their fortunes.
People tend to “over-analyse” the detail (or the parts we are most comfortable with) and avoid tackling the real, hard, knotty issues. As teams, our conversations, seldom focus in on the major issues that would bring about significant and transformational change.
We tend not to bring sufficient attention to the most significant issues. After all, it is easier to focus on the trivia, or those issues that are most comfortable to discuss. Bringing attention to significant issues is, after all, risky. We risk upsetting people, we risk our reputation, we risk being alienated if no-one else supports us, and we risk upsetting the status quo.
As a result, true agreement is rarely reached to the extent that it is clarified, confirmed and restated to everyone’s level of unambiguous satisfaction. How many meetings have you come away from where people start initiatives to resolve what they believe is the ‘agreed’ issue, but which is, in reality, subject to their own individual perspective? This typically results in duplication of effort, conflicting initiatives, confusion and frustration.
Our organisations are action-generating machines,creating an illusion of efficiency, and productivity. Down the line, the most significant issues, which, if addressed and tackled, would result in radical change and improvement, remain untouched, lurking in the shadows in corners of meeting rooms around the globe (the proverbial elephant in the room?).
Here is a simple step by step guide – “The 4 As” – to help leaders navigate the pitfalls of moving to action too quickly …..
Analysis Always ensure that the initial analysis of the problem is focusing on the ‘ real work’ that is required and not some distraction, or easier problem to solve. Beware of ‘shiny objects’. Always ask yourself if this is where people’s effort is most productively focused. Do not assume that issues are clear or obvious to everyone, as people see things very differently.
Attention Once you are sure what the real problem is, and where the real work is required, ensure that people’s attention is focused on this. This will be hard, and can be time-consuming, so do not rush past this stage. People will naturally do all they can to deflect and divert attention to other areas. They will prefer to look at areas that are less threatening, that are easier to ‘act on’, that are less important. As a leader, it is important that you are able to spot this happening, and to bring attention back onto the real issue, why it is important that it is attended to, and what it means for people. Stay here for as long as it takes.
Agreement Once attention has been gained, you then need to work on reaching agreement that the issue is important enough for something to be done about it. It is critical that time is spent on this stage, and it is not assumed that simply because people agree on a problem’s existence, that this means they will automatically agree that something needs to be done about it. After all, they may already have other conflicting issues that are vying for their attention and time.
Action Only once the previous 3 As have been successfully and patiently navigated, are you ready to move to the final A – Action. Action without adequate analysis, attention and agreement is worthless, and potentially damaging.
So, act on leaders, but you are fooling yourself. Focus on the real issues, tackle the problems others dare to avoid, step in to the messy stuff, stay there, and bring others in with you. It is only by slowing down, staying there, and avoiding the temptation to act too quickly, that the big issues will be tackled and real and lasting change will be realised.
To learn more about how to recognise the dangers and pitfalls facing leaders and techniques for maximising success, please do get in touch. Simply send your details through the Contact Us page. I will be delighted to discuss your business objectives and help you find ways to make them happen.