Leaders love big question marks
Leaders love big question marks
If you’re running a business you have to accept that things will go wrong.

By Dan Fine, Management Consultant at Hive Business

It would be too easy to argue that sugar, religion or any of the multitude of other easy-to-demonise human preoccupations is the one we need to get rid of to fix our problems. People have made very convincing cases for the inherent evil in all sorts of things. But what would it be like to navigate through life with a bit of sugar, a bit of spiritualism, a bit of uncertainty and, above all, an acceptance that the question marks we carry around might be our friends?

It’s ineffective to be dogmatic in business. You certainly can’t be a perfectionist and let great get in the way of good. If you’re running a business you’re moving in a high paced environment and you have to accept that things will go wrong, but despite that you’re choosing to move forward. The important thing is that you’re improving — really the only thing that matters is that that’s consistent.

Losers who aren’t going anywhere get lucky once in a while, and a broken clock tells the right time twice a day. Obviously a clock that’s an hour out is better than one that’s not moving at all. It’s keeping pace and you get to know where you are with it. For some reason I always let the clock on my car dash go out an hour when summer time kicks in and it stops giving me that “oh bugger I’m late” shock after day or two, once I’ve remembered.

Similarly your processes may not be perfect but you shouldn’t despair, if you’re closing the gap you’re doing really well — you should only compare yourself to where you were yesterday. Over time you’ll get your business more in sync. Hopefully the hour hand will start to look more on point, but you’ll never get the minute hand on the right second. Fine.

But not so fine for managers. It’s the hardest thing for managers to deal with. Managers are hot on detail and tangibles. That’s why when a well-meaning manager takes their decision-making model into a leadership vacuum, as happens all the time in dentistry, it can create the dangerous illusion that everything is under control. It’s not.

A good manager might try to fight every battle and end up losing the war, and that’s why you really, really need leadership. It’s not always about working harder, fighting more battles and exhausting yourself. It really is about stepping back. Just remember, as long as you’re making ground you are doing well. This is the biggest secret to business success.

A lot of psychology literature backs this up. People would rather not lose a fiver than earn it. We have been designed, through aeons of adaptation, to disdain non-tangibles in favour of security. Managers are brilliant at shoring up what we have, checking our business functions are healthy and making sure the machine isn’t going to run out of anything. We need them, they provide a vital function. But that’s all for nought if your business lacks leadership, and leaders love those question marks.

Dan Fine
By Dan Fine Management Consultant
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