It’s usually true that the more management responsibilities you get, the more difficult your job becomes. The problems are more complex, office politics become more prevalent, and you have more people with different personalities and values to lead. Finding the balance between getting the results you want quickly and taking the wisest course of action so you do not make problems worse takes some wisdom. As I work with managers, I advise them to accept that delayed action and even inaction have their uses at times. Sometimes the wisest thing you can do is nothing at all!
For some managers, these words can be a source of great irritation. This is particularly true when the managers are highly motivated to get things done quickly or when they are set on a certain course of action. Moving too quickly to address organizational issues can be as destructive however as moving too slowly. Sometimes the best solutions come when you abandon your problem for awhile. You take a break from them and then revisit them when you have given your mind and often your emotions awhile to process through the dynamics of your situation. It’s the difference between making a rash decision with consequences that you may not able to fix and making a wise decision that allows you to preserve relationships and still meet critical goals. The saying look before you leap comes to mind. Here’s five situations when the wisest thing you can do is nothing at all:
1. You have the potential to destroy your credibility and trust with others who are critical to your ability to do your job. It’s very difficult to lead your team and work with your peers if they no longer trust you.
Ask yourself: Will I still be walking the talk if I take this actions?
2. You have the potential to permanently damage critical relationships. People do not always react like you think they will. You may cause one or more of your employees to leave or equally as bad you may create a negative work environment.
What’s the potential interpersonal fallout of the actions you are going to take? Can you accomplish what you need another way at another time?
3. You are hopelessly outmatched in your current situation and your further opposition will only bring harm to you and your team. It’s better to survive, regroup, and face the organizational challenge later when you have better odds of succeeding.
4. You are in an organizational pickle: the situation is very complex; there is little room for error; and others are pushing you to make a decision quickly. We rarely get all of the information we need to make critical decisions. This does not mean, however, that we should not try to delay taking action until we can get enough information to at least make an informed decision.
You’ll have a better chance of making a thoughtful decision if you make time to consult with other knowledgeable people, separate the facts from the fiction, and listen to your gut feelings.
5. You’re not really needed to solve this problem. Effective managers are problem solvers. Give them one and they’ll work at solving it. Some problems go away, however. Have you ever noticed that when you go back through your uncompleted tasks that some of them do not need to be done anymore? As you encounter problems ask yourself the following: Do I really need to solve this problem? What’s the worst that can happen if I do nothing about this issue? Your time is valuable and limited.
Make sure you are first addressing the issues that have the most impact on your ability and on your team’s ability to meet the organizational goals.
Effective leaders make decisions and they gets results. Effective leaders also know when they should delay making decisions to get results. Are you doing both?