We are all so proactive, action-oriented, and engaged, working to measure, manage, lead, and drive our innovative, design-led, customer-centric organizations. Phew!
As leaders, we often gorge ourselves on doing and saying rather than listening, thinking and, then, returning to doing with renewed clarity and refined direction. I was lucky in that I had a moment when freedom and life transitions overlapped and I stopped, completely, sold everything (3 small businesses and our dream house) and just lived on an island reading history and philosophy in front of the fire with a baby sleeping on my lap for a couple of years. Now, I look back and see how invaluable that seemingly wasted time actually was.
Normally, we’re so focused on doing all we can that we may be missing very important data, experiences and insights along the way. Sometimes missing things is unfortunate, but other times, especially when the stakes are high, missing things causes real damage to our humanity as well as both current and potential opportunities.
There is nothing more damaging than a half-educated, action-oriented leader.
(So, please, avoid being one)
First, do no harm.
To avoid damaging that which you are seeking to build:
- Stop Like doctors do, take the Hippocratic oath of leadership, that is, “First, do no harm”
- Wait just a bit and really listen: Find the signal amid the noise
- Think deeply about the first principles of the situation and how they relate to one another
- Calibrate your compass to your deepest values and highest goals
- Formalize your project management practices to uncover the dependency tree, order of operations, and critical path to reach your freshly refined goals
This work can literally take seconds in simple situations and might take months for very complex projects. But, skipping any step in the process can lead to expensive and time-consuming unintended consequences.
If you take these steps before you begin concerted action, you will be more fully-educated and ready to lead your team.
Of course, we want to carefully balance preparation and action so that we don’t over invest our time and energy before acting. Agile methodologies are excellent for balancing actions and feedback/analysis loops. In the end, wisdom and artfulness in this balancing come with wider experience and deeper awareness.
And, now, begin again.
Begin – to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.
–Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
May your doing support your being,