“There are tiresome people who say that if you ever find yourself in a difficult situation, you should stop and figure out the right thing to do.
But there are times in this harum-scarum world when figuring out the right thing to do is quite simple, but doing the right thing is simply impossible, and then you must do something else.”
“She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there, leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.”
That is a question a business leader gets faced with on almost a daily basis … certainly on a weekly basis.
Not all “do’s” are created equal … particularly if your job is to hold the universe together. And, frankly, that is what a leader of a larger business organization does … holds the universe together.
That universe has multiple layers … the business itself is at the core <because without the business the rest is irrelevant>, the employees … as well as the greater universe which I will call ‘the industry’ <because your decisions either make the universe stronger or break it apart in some way>.
And I bring up the universe because that is what doing versus not doing is all about. Doing, or not doing, sends out a ripple which impacts the greater universe and, often, it is difficult to envision how the universe will react.
That is a fairly important point to ‘decision second guessers.’ Ripples and difficult to envision. Second guessers tend to focus on ‘cause & affect’ criticism … linear relationships.
I rarely debate what some business leader actually does because, frankly, the decision itself is almost the least important aspect … it is most likely what comes next that matters – how you adapt to what the universe does in response to your decision & action.
I do watch very closely as to how a business leader makes a choice because context, and reaction to the context, matters <and we all face this when stressed under a do-or-not-do decision>.
The biggest sign to watch for is ‘the use of simple equivalency on nuanced complex issues.’
Because if you see it … well … it is kind of a defense mechanism to a very stressful decision.
Universe impacting choices kind of put a leader in a corner. They get squeezed.
Personally, I do not like squeezed situation decisions. And I really don’t like when business leaders feel like they HAVE to make a decision simply because they are in a squeezed situation <especially if they themselves created the squeeze>.
I am fairly harsh in my judgement with leaders who offer the simplistic “I did this because of this” simplicity and suggest a simplistic ‘we will be better off because of this’ but I will be less harsh on the decision itself.
I believe all of that is fair because the situation in which the decision is made is fair game but decisions are decisions and, whatever the situation, once the die are cast the die are cast.
First & foremost I am an unequivocal do the right thing person.
And the thought of not doing the right thing galls me … makes me shiver to the core.
And before anyone throws out the infamous ‘how can you know the right thing to do?’ I would suggest that maybe 98.863718% of the time … figuring out the right thing to do is quite simple.
But, yes, sometimes … doing the right thing is simply impossible.
Huh? How is that possible? Oh. That universe thing.
When you are holding the universe together there are easy moral decisions, there are easy right decisions … but it is never easy to see how they will always affect the universe and more often than not actually doing the right thing is a combination of luck and ability to adapt.
Having made some of these types of decisions myself I find second guessing these decisions tiresome.
I am more than willing to judge the motivations behind the decisions. I am more than willing to judge how a leader responds to what happens when the universe responds. But I am always hesitant if not refuse to judge the decision itself.
While I believe the universe, in general, is indifferent to our fate … I do believe the universe has a nasty habit of responding to us when we actually try to make something happen to our fate <like a business leader making a decision>.
To be clear.
If you do nothing … you will gain nothing.
If you do nothing you will get less than nothing. Mostly because the universe is … well … indifferent. It will not pay attention to you unless you pay attention to it <because it is far too busy focusing on those who have done something to make the universe break apart in some way>.
I say that because I think some people believe if they knew there would be no consequences for their actions they would lead a fuller life. They would have the courage to do more and take some chances.
Maybe have the courage to let themselves go forward.
And they do nothing because they fear the consequences.
They have forgotten that the Universe is indifferent.
And there is the tricky thing about the Universe.
It is kind of a trap for a business leader.
Doing more, taking some chances, and even simply making decisions, means more responsibility for actions.
It is simple math.
The more you ‘do’ the more shit you can be blamed for … or … given credit for or even have to actually do to react & adapt <there is a ratio relationship to a choice in that 1 decision can beget 10 necessary actions/decisions in response to the universe’s response>.
Here is where I come back to motivation for the decision and being in a squeezed situation.
In today’s world if it doesn’t appear like you are doing something … then … well … damn it … you aren’t doing something.
You have to be doing something that can be seen.
Because if you don’t everyone is convinced you are doing nothing.
I call it being challenged by the ‘outcome mentality’ and, as a business leader, this is a headwind you face every morning you walk into the office.
That headwind constantly blows in the belief that outcome, or output, is everything.
That’s not really truth …. But let’s assume for here that output is truly all that matters <note: that was extremely painful for me to type>.
So what if your output is … well … holding the universe together.
Sometimes you run across that leader … or sometimes a manager … or a young employee <with the potential to do so> who holds the business or the organization together … but sometimes when you look you cannot see what they are actually doing. They may be often seen doing nothing but standing there leaning on the balcony rail.
In today’s business world that person is screwed.
I’m not suggesting you want people who do nothing … but sometimes people who look like they are doing nothing are actually doing a lot of something.
And sometimes it is difficult to measure these people up against ‘outcome focused generators’ and particularly difficult to measure from outside a C-level perspective <employees and those looking at you without direct relationship>.
What I mean by that is I have had people in my teams where during review time I have had to stack employees and justify their salary, job status, existence within the organization, whatever review line item you want to call it … based on ‘what have they done’, i.e., tangible outcome crap.
And … well … sometimes your most valuable employee doesn’t look so hot based on sheer tangible outcome. It is only when you build in intangibles that they rise above the tangible outputters <not sure that is a word>.
I note that example because holding the universe together is a particular intangible talent … and one that demands a massive strength of character.
I bring up character because that is at the heart & soul of ‘to do or not to do.’
I do get a little concerned that the business world pendulum has swung so far over to outcome & output that those who ‘hold the universe together’ is becoming a dying breed. Maybe I am less concerned for the immediate … but over time. Because the young people with this talent and ability simply cannot protect themselves from an output world without help. And if all we do in business is to promote outputters … well … enough said.
You get it.
To do or not to do.
That is the question every business leader faces … all … the … frickin … time.
And while I imagine we should judge them based on whether they did or didn’t do … I would suggest I am more interested in judging business leaders on ‘the decisions after the decision.’ Frankly, that is what defines a great business leader for a couple of reasons:
Decisions impact the universe … and with many unintended consequences. And your job is to hold the universe together. Which means you have to keep an eye on the consequences of your decision … all the time.
- Decisions accumulate.
Remember the ‘keep an eye on the consequences’? well. One decision begets 10 different consequences all of which may need a specific response/decision. Uh oh. And you make one of these decisions every day … maybe every week … yikes … every week I have to try and keep a finger on the pulse of a universe in which I am now pondering hundreds of different consequences. A decision does not, okay, rarely, makes something go away. Which means every week your particular universe gets larger and larger.
All that said.
And that is why ‘to do or not to do’ decision should never be made flippantly or for self-purposes … because the larger decisions are more about the universe than they are about the leader themselves. I judge motivations, and we all should, but once a decision is made the die is cast and you begin judging on how a leader responds to how the universe responds.