February 7th, 2021
Wait Not, Want Not
They say the devil is in the details, and I can’t disagree with that statement. A new to-do list filled with worthy projects always invigorates me—for a little while, at least. But then, the responsibility required to make it all happen kind of kills the vibe, doesn’t it?
Think about it: Did you love winter as a kid? Of course, you did! Because some responsible adult got you bundled up, kept you safe, pulled that sled and built that snowman. Then they removed all of your soggy wet clothes, exchanged them for dry ones and cleaned up the mess that was left all over the floor while you ate snacks and watched TV under a blanket. The only person not loving this scenario is the one doing all the work. (And let’s just be honest here, that person was probably your mom.)
It’s hard to keep the wonder alive when the experience turns from magical to mundane drudgery because of that thorn of responsibility in our grown-up flesh. So, we tend to want to avoid or neglect it, and we end up procrastinating (a common leadership mistake).
If you’ve got some years of experience leading a company or a team, think back to when you first started. You were probably like that kid looking out the window with wonder-filled eyes at the first fresh snow of winter. Excitement and anticipation were high for a while, no doubt. Then the crushing responsibilities kicked in, and you had to start shoveling and driving in that now not so beautiful snow.
Our dreams of making a difference, leading progress and soaring success often turn to realities of misunderstandings, red tape battles and HR nightmares. No leader is alone in these challenges. But we don’t have the option to shrug off the things we’d rather not deal with because when we signed up to be leaders, we automatically assumed the mantle of responsibility.
We may think we’re just putting something off when we procrastinate, but what we’re really doing is punting that project to “future us,” where it will most likely be a much more challenging and bigger deal when we finally have to confront it again. And we will have to face it again eventually, because we’re all grown up now, and the responsibility is our own.
What we’re also doing when we procrastinate is communicating a lack of respect to our teams. They are looking to us to lead the charge – not to solve every issue, but to show that we care enough not to let problems linger. And they deserve that from us. Teams who feel that they are being left to fend for themselves will eventually do just that – and probably with little regard for the wants and wishes of an absentee leader.
Procrastination is a losing game for everyone, but especially for leaders. Procrastinate long enough on enough things and you risk being seen as a “title only” leader. (And nobody likes or respects those people.)
Resolve to tackle to-do lists with tenacity, no matter how undesirable the task. Roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, get in the trenches with your teams – do what it takes to make sure things get checked off instead of put off. You’ll be saving future you from added stress and, more importantly, earning respect in the process from others and for yourself.