Have you ever caught yourself chasing paper in the wind? In a weird way, it is a fear of mine. Let me explain…
Here is the scenario. Join me in imagining that you are getting back in your vehicle after doing your grocery shopping. It’s the day before a big holiday, you name it, the place is a zoo. On top of the chaos, it is an extremely windy day.
After an hour of wrestling with decisions on health food vs good food, name brand vs generic, or needs vs wants, your stress and anxiety build. On top of that, it took forever to get checked out, your cashier was slow, you had to bag the items yourself, the bread ended up crushed at the bottom of the bag, and an item got rung up twice. The worst part is…you went through self-checkout!
As you go to open the car door a piece of paper falls out. That dreadful moment on a windy day. It lands ever so gently and remains stationary, right up until the moment you try to pick it up, then the wind carries it away. As it rests again, you have that dilemma to face…pursue or not to pursue.
Here are four questions we should ask ourselves at this critical juncture and how each one applies to our leadership journey:
Never Walk Past a Piece of Trash (Editorial Note)
It is necessary to declare before we get too deep, that I have a personal philosophy to Never Walk Past a Piece of Trash. It is an often overlooked and undervalued leadership trait. One in which I adopted by watching two great leaders I know in my life. I watched them when they didn’t know I was looking, it made a significant impression on me. I personally despise littering. So don’t judge the options I present for consideration moving forward!
One: What is the Value?
Generally, the first question I ask myself is, “What is the value?” Was it my receipt from the store that only has the last four digits of my credit card number or a deposit slip from the bank with every bit of pertinent information someone could use for bad? The value will determine whether to pursue or not to pursue. The receipt, no go. That deposit slip, pursue.
In leadership, the people we lead have value. EVERY single one of them. They are always worth the pursuit. So, the answer is yes, seven days a week, and twice on Sunday. People feel that they have value, when the leader makes them feel valued. Pursuit of people creates value.
Two: When to Stop the Pursuit?
In the midst of the chaotic event, people are flying through the parking lot, blindly backing out, and impatiently circling like vultures over a carcass seeking the closest spot possible. You tried once, it blew away. Then you stare intently, knowing that the piece of paper is ready to blow away as soon as you attempt to pounce again!
At some point, even if it goes against your personal feelings on littering, you must consider abandoning pursuit. There are risks of collision leading to personal bodily injury. The potential to cause irreversible damage over something that does not have equal value or even diminishing value.
People are always valuable enough to initially engage in the pursuit, but leadership requires tough decisions. Tough decisions that may lead to abandonment of the pursuit. When the risk of continued pursuit could lead to irreversible damage to the rest of the team, tough decisions need to be made.
Let me be crystal clear, I’m not talking about taking one step in pursuit and giving up. I’m talking about when we have pursued them to the point of exhaustion. When all alternatives, all strategies, and all interventions have been pursued, consideration of abandonment must become a real consideration. Often times leaders lose sight of the fact that if we put everything into the pursuit and we continue to grasp nothing but thin air, the person has made the decision for us to end the pursuit.
Three: What am I Not Seeing?
In the moment of the showdown between the paper and I, my focus intensifies. It is just me and that piece of paper, nothing else. It requires every bit of my focus in the pursuit. If not, each time I get close to having it in my grasps, it simply slips away.
Granted, with the level of focus required to win the tense battle against the paper and the wind, it can impede our peripheral vision. I can become so focused on the task at hand, that I don’t see the danger lurking outside of that Vantage Point. I can flat out miss it.
Our greatest threats in leadership lie just outside of our intense areas of focus. When things get busy, when deadlines bear down, when one issue demands all of our time and attention, we become suspectable to missing things. We become vulnerable to the things going on right outside of focus, those things most detrimental to our organization. We flat out miss them.
Sometimes we just have to sit back…pause…and open up our vantage point. Leaders must see the big picture. When our vision is limited, our success can vanish into thin air.
Four: Conclusion – Am I all in?
There is a natural tension when we are determining the value of pursuit, when to stop the pursuit, or evaluating our vantage point. The other three questions have some level of inclusion that involves others. The final question is isolated to you, and only you.
Am I all in?
If we are going to pursue that pesky little sheet of paper that is purely subject to the direction the wind blows…are we ALL IN? If we are going to absolutely puzzle unknowing bystanders watching our pursuit, we want them to know one thing…we are ALL IN. We may risk looking like fools, appearing severely uncoordinated, chance embarrassing ourselves, whiffing on the capture, but there will be absolutely zero doubt to them that we are ALL IN.
Leaders can often receive criticism from bystanders. When faced with Criticism remember what Dale Carnegie once said, “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.” Not even our biggest Hater can impede our pursuit, letting them would be foolish.
Here is what I know for certain, great leaders intend to pursue people at all costs. Our sole intention is to better others and the worlds we live in. Are you ALL IN?