This past Saturday was shaping up to be a perfect day. The weather was gorgeous. I took an early morning jog with my dog, followed by a walk with my wife. We then went out for a late breakfast and a bit of shopping in our neighborhood. It was delightful.
After walking through a few stores, we found ourselves in the holiday spirit and decided to do a bit of decorating. We returned home and threw ourselves into the effort.
There was a large ceramic pot holding a once beautiful mum that had seen better days. My wife and I agreed to remove the mum and transport the pot and soil from the back of the house to the front porch as part of the holiday makeover. This pot is good sized, made of ceramic and full of dirt. It weighs over 80 pounds (36+ kg).
Then, I made four bad choices that broke our great day.
Bad Choice #1: In my haste to move the pot, I decided that carrying it would be faster than getting a cart from the garage.
Bad Choice #2: As I picked up the pot, I thought that I should get help, but my ego told me otherwise.
Bad Choice #3: Deciding to cut through the house, I found the pot starting to slip in my hands. I elected to speed up and race toward the door as opposed to setting it down and adjusting my grip.
Bad Choice #4: When I reached the front door, my foot caught the threshold and fearful of dropping and breaking the pot, I doubled-down on a bad situation and attempted to keep the already falling pot from hitting the floor.
Good news: the pot didn’t hit the floor and didn’t break. Bad news: the pot hit my leg and my leg did break.
Now, I’m waiting for surgery and staring down the path of several weeks of recovery. All of which happened because I made 4 bad choices.
Sure, it was an accident. I didn’t mean to drop the pot and break my leg. But, the accident stemmed from four choices.
How this relates to your organization
Odds are that people in your organizations, perhaps you, are making similar bad choices. Consider how these choices are showing up in your world.
Bad Choice #1 – Forgetting that slow is sometimes fast
Leaders and organizations like speed. They reward it. They tell stories about it. Leaders applaud the employee who works faster than everyone else and encourage others to pick up their pace. Organizations, that are the first movers in an industry, often benefit from their speed to market. This causes other companies to rush products and services to market.
In many instances speed does matter, but there are times when slowing down and getting things right will be far faster in the long-run. Don’t allow your impatience to break your ability to win in the long-run.
Bad Choice #2 – Putting ego over vulnerability & collaboration
Despite all the discussions about collaboration and synergy in the workplace, people continually try to carry everything on their own backs and not ask for help. Many reasons drive this behavior – desire to be a hero, past requests for help that didn’t go well, fear of looking weak, etc. Whatever the purpose, the ego of one person can negatively impact the growth and success of many in the organization. Trying to carry everything on your back can, and often will, break you.
Bad Choice #3 – Racing through yellow lights
What do most people seem to do when the streetlight turns yellow? They speed up. The same happens in business.
- A salesperson senses that a client is hesitant about a purchase. Instead of exploring the issue and potentially losing the business, he speeds through the yellow light and inks the contract. In the long run the solution is wrong, the client is unhappy, and long-term relationship is damaged. The client-relationship breaks.
- A job candidate gives several signs that she isn’t a good fit for the job, but the organization desperately needs to fill the position, so they ignore the yellow lights and offer the candidate the job. Weeks later everyone is miserable about the hiring decision. The situation is destined for a bad break-up.
Bad Choice #4 – Doubling-down on a losing proposition
Sometimes things should never have started in the first place. What once sounded like a great project idea has eroded into an endeavor that everyone knows needs to be stopped. However, the organization has invested so much time, energy, and emotion into the effort that no one wants to call it quits. So, the elephant in the room grows bigger and bigger. Eventually, the 13-foot tall, 15,000 pound pachyderm goes on a rampage breaking lots of stuff in the office.
If any of these bad choices sound familiar, I suggest you hit pause and have a conversation with your team, colleagues, or boss – perhaps all of them.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.