Admittedly there are a few things that frustrate me. One of them is based off a saying you have likely heard expressed. It is the expression of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink the water.” If you have been in this scenario before, I’m certain you understand the feeling of this proverbial horse standing near or over the water trough, needing hydration, but not drinking the water. Seeing this occurring seems senseless. Even counterintuitive, although we see this happening on a regular basis.
Who are the people that fall into this category of being “that” horse? Sometime surprisingly the people you wouldn’t imagine they would be. Yes, I’m calling out those of you who are leaders in the business world, and those of you who are sports coaches at some of the highest levels of competition. It’s very likely the scenario you are presently in is due to a combination of circumstances which have brought you to the place of inaction. Others may see your inaction as being stubborn, close minded, or worse, unaware of the fact the “water” is right in front of you.
Recently I experienced a leader who seemingly just realized they were not in a good place. All the data supports making this obvious, but ironically, they were behaving as if everything was fine. Better than fine. In fact, that they didn’t seemingly have any challenges at all. Sure, this may sound implausible, but if there were an “ignore button”, they were certainly pressing it often. Possibly without realizing they were doing so. However, others they are leading were absolutely noticing this, but didn’t feel empowered to do something, or know how to approach this leader.
When I got the call from this leader, I was shocked. Upon speaking with them briefly, it was also as if time or the circumstances they were in didn’t matter. In fact, it was as if I was speaking to an individual that had little or no awareness of the reality of the situation, they were in. This may be their way of protecting themselves from reality, but the reality is, they will need to confront reality next week. Why next week? Because they will have a new boss who is going to want them to provide answers about how they will do things differently to obtain far better results. When I asked them what their plan was to have this conversation, I was less than impressed by what I heard.
The more difficult aspect of hearing that the leader didn’t think they needed a new plan was more disconcerting. Having the experience of knowing they were going to need to have a solid, well thought through plan to make the necessary changes to impact their current circumstances seemed obvious. Yet, this appeared to be the furthest thinking from what they were expressing.
Instead, what I heard was that they were going to be making tactical maneuvers. Ones that in essence would only apply a Band-Aid to their scenario, when what they needed was to have a surgical team in place to repair the damage. The lack of awareness of what was going to be needed to positively impact their circumstances partially contributes to the situation they are in. However, the bigger problem is that they thought with the plan they had shared with me, that all the solutions to solve their challenges were going to be met. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out how this scenario is going to play out. At least not without doing something quite different than they are planning to do.
If you are a leader or sports coach who is currently in or may be in a situation which will call for you to do something different than you are doing, with the intent to get better results, below are some suggestions you can begin considering to apply.
- Do you have a group of trusted advisors? Ones who will challenge you and not play the role of a “yes” person.?
- Consider why you think that doing the same thing all the time is going to offer you the desired results you are seeking.
- On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest, how comfortable are you with change?
- If your score isn’t close to a 10, you have some work to do. This can also offer insight into why you may be in the circumstances you are now.
- How well do you listen to others? Chances are high that this is an area we can all improve upon. Consider testing yourself in terms of noticing whether you are listening or talking more. Practice listening more than you are talking and see what benefits you gain from this.
- What is preventing you for doing something differently? If you don’t like change, what if you looked at change differently? Perhaps as being a positive maneuver versus one you find more comfort in resisting?
- Stop kidding yourself. If your current circumstances aren’t where you want them to be, others are noticing. In fact, they are likely waiting for you to reach out and ask them for help.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to help others. If you are not asking for help yourself, this isn’t allowing you to fully embrace your role as a leader or sports coach. Taking actions to do something different doesn’t need to be perceived negatively. In fact, it might be exactly what you need to do. What will your doing something different be?
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