The Decision, The Standard & The Lesson
What do you do when you come across someone doing the wrong thing? The easy answer is to say something to that person. But although this is the easy answer, it is far from easy to make that decision in the split second you notice a problem. You then have to run through the dialog in your head about how receptive the person will be to your correction, whether you are correct, how you should approach the issue, is it worth the effort to correct, and many other questions and scenarios your brain comes up with. Then perhaps you decide to fix the problem. Has there been a clear standard established? What if you are wrong? Or what if you are right, but there should be a change to the standard? Are you willing to listen and learn something? That entire drama-filled paragraph is why it is essential to have the foresight to understand three things.
I’ve heard many times that you don’t choose to be a leader. Or that the best leaders are the ones that don’t want to be leaders. I say that is nonsense! I find it hard to believe that people are accidental leaders. I’m sure it happens, but I’m willing to bet it is extremely rare. I think you should want to lead. Leadership encompasses so much that wanting to be a leader is only the beginning. Taking care of people, making decisions, critical thinking, empathetic behavior, intelligence, honesty, competent, forward-looking or strategic, and many other things are great traits and actions for a leader. But the best thing a leader can do is to decide to be a leader. In any or all capacities. Deciding to lead is the starting point, and it will open you up to a world of tough actions that lie ahead. What do you do once you have decided to lead? Determine the standard.
Everyone has standards but telling someone what your standards are is much more difficult. A leader must be able to do this. Perhaps not only verbally but through your actions. Standards are what you use to guide your actions. If someone in your organization does something wrong, what do you do about it? As a leader, you must have that internal discussion and know what you should do. What behaviors are expected in your organization and how do you articulate those behaviors? Conversations. Conversations are vital to the thorough understanding of concepts, and without conversations, we are limited to one-way communication which is a terrible way to establish standards. Once you have the standards figured out, you are good, right? Wrong.
The problem with experience is that is can create complacency, or at the very worst it can create arrogance and ego. With arrogance and ego, the leader believes they know exactly what they are doing and no longer need to listen. This is why it is important to understand that a leader always has a lesson to learn. There is always a better idea out there. If you feel like you have arrived at the peak of your leadership mountaintop, there is a good chance you have only forgotten to look around. You will always gain value from a different perspective, and when you don’t listen, you limit options. Always look for the lesson you should learn, I guarantee there is one there.
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1 thought on “The Decision”
Once again Zachary, you have managed to put into words some common sense experiences many wanna be leaders such as myself have had. I literally could have used this blog post a few days ago. I had a decision to make, reviewed my standard and inadvertently touched the proverbial “third rail”. I should have put some more thought as you suggest here, into how the employee would react to my approach to solving the issue. Lesson learned: Don’t limit your options by making a not so well thought out decision in an attempt to solve a safety issue quickly, the employee experience must be fair and consistent to sustain forward progress.