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Sunday, 8 July 2012

Don't Just Do Something - Stand There! Is That You?

At the quarterly National Vistage Chair meeting last week, as usual, I came across several nice maxims that I have stored away to take a look at sometime in the future.

One of them, from my friend and colleague, John Thorpe, had some considerable resonance for me as it applies to life, never mind just business.

This neat piece of neo-Platonic philosophy says:

·       We always get more of what we tolerate

What it says to me is that the longer that we tolerate business situations like bad behaviour, bad attitude, poor performance and so on, then the position gets worse, not better.  The same applies to those often mundane tasks which we know need to be done but somehow we just don’t get round to doing them.


The key word is, of course, tolerate. Another way of looking at it is “sweep it under the carpet” or “ignore it and it might go away” and does it?  Very seldom, if ever.

It is really about procrastination which can be defined as the act of voluntarily putting off a task despite consciously knowing that one will be worse off for having done so

When I re-read that it gave me a cold shiver as I know that I am guilty of the dreaded act on occasions, often in not writing that letter or making that telephone call which I know is important.

Why are we like that?  Why do we not automatically bite the metaphorical bullet and do the necessary?  What advantage do we think that we will gain b ignoring the situation?

The reason is usually a like or dislike situation.  We naturally prefer tasks that we like to do or are good at, to those which we dislike and which may cause us another problem, so we put them off.

The solution is a matter of determination and most leaders have that is spades.  Still, they can be as guilty as the next person of putting off those unappealing tasks which never seem to go away.

However, if it is determination which can help, then perhaps a little system could be brought into play.

I am not a great lover of lists but a to-do list with no more than five genuine priority items can be really helpful.   The key is to include on the list all those items which are being put off for some reason, assess the value of settling them, and be determined to take action.

Tick each one off as you do it and give yourself a pat on the back, or even a cream bun as a reward.

Don’t, please, be like a past Vistage member who, when I asked to see his to-do list, rather shamefacedly printed it off and it had 75 items on it.  It was more a “I really need to get round to doing something about this lot someday” list.

People and situations don’t get better for being ignored and tolerated.  The nice thing about doing something that we have been putting off for ages is that it engenders a sense of satisfaction and achievement.

We always get more of what we tolerate.  Leadership is about taking action both quickly and visibly.  It’s that JFDI all over again!

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