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Monthly Archives: February 2015

//February

Beware of Bikeshedding

The term was coined as a metaphor to illuminate Parkinson’s Law of Triviality. Parkinson observed that a committee whose job is to approve plans for a nuclear power plant may spend the majority of its time on relatively unimportant but easy-to-grasp issues, such as what materials to use for the staff bikeshed, while neglecting the design of the power plant itself, which is far more important but also far more difficult to criticize constructively. This trap snares lots of folks, and leaders are particularly susceptible. We're asked to make a multitude of decisions every day, usually without enough facts and often with no good answer. It can be exhausting. Given the chance to think about adjusting our revenue management strategy or the color of the lobby chairs, my mind leaps at the chance to take it easy. But I shouldn't indulge. And you probably shouldn't either.

Leadership Essentials: the Weekly Review

If there's a silver bullet for being an effective leader, the Weekly Review process would be it. Leaders simply must pause regularly to look up, down, and around. Once in a while is not enough. When the leader isn't focused, organized, and stable, the organization suffers. The same is true for families, churches, teams, or any other unit. As you might have guessed, I've learned the importance of this the hard way. I've seen the suffering and unnecessary stress, and I've realized that I was often the cause. That hurt. But there's a silver lining. If we're responsible for the problem, that means we can fix it. We often talk of leadership being a responsibility and a sacrifice, and I think this practice is a huge part of that. We can always find excuses or reasons that we don't have the time, and there's usually no one to question that. But that's not the real challenge. We know that this practice often leads to scary, difficult, or complicated situations, and we just don't want to face them. (At least not right now.) So we stay in reactive mode, diligently participating in the latest fire drill and convincing ourselves that we're busy enough. We can do better. By using a roadmap, we can guide ourselves through the process and push through mental hurdles.

Survive the Hard Things with Habits

Leadership is hard. Perhaps inherently so. When the mission is to empower others to cause change, there's bound to be lots of challenges. CNN says being CEO should come with a health warning. One legendary CEO even called it "the torture." I think there's another metaphor that's more helpful. In an episode of Stan Lee's Superhumans, Tom Owen survives being run over by a heavy truck. Through testing, the conclusion isn't that his abdominal muscles are significantly stronger than average. Instead, he's able to generate enough inter-abdominal pressure to withstand massive external loads. "If I can't push out harder than the weight of the truck pushing down, then I die," says Tom. I think leaders can use the same approach. By generating enough internal force with our habits, we can push back against the external pressures that threaten to crush us.