Friday, October 30, 2015

disappointment and leadership

Two weeks ago I wrote about leadership lessons and baseball, focusing on the dramatic winning streak my Chicago Cubs had been on for the past several months.  All of that came to a crashing halt less than a week later, when they were swept in 4 games by the hated New York Mets, allowing the Mets to continue and sending the Cubs home for the winter.  Needless to say, I was disappointed, once again having to resort to my never-ending phrase of "wait until next year."  And so it is with leaders.

Life is full of disappointment, especially for those who take on leadership roles.  Two phrases come to my mind as I think about this idea: 1) leadership is about people; and 2) people disappoint.  If both of those statements are true (and I believe they are), then leadership will have its share of disappointment and most of that will be around people and the decisions they make.  Disappointment occurs when:

  • someone you recently hired turns out to be a non-performer
  • someone you mentor and put your energy into takes a job at another company
  • someone you trust shares a confidence after you have asked them not to
  • someone who has promised to change their behavior engages in the same manner over and over again
  • someone whom you promote to a position of greater responsibility does not live up to your expectations
  • someone who has the ability and authority to complete a given task  fails to do 
  • someone who has been in a position for a long time has a lapse of judgement and acts in an unethical manner
Disappointments can also occur outside of people - missed goals, mechanical failures, and other items which are external to the organization.  And then there are the disappointments with oneself - missed opportunities, saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, treating others poorly, not taking care of oneself, and wasted hours.

Disappointments are a one deals with them is the true test of leadership.  Do you run around blaming others?  Do you act as if the sky is falling?  Do you immediately try to fix it without getting at the root cause of the problem?  Do you fly off the handle, yelling and screaming at others?  Do you retreat into your office and hide? you accept disappointments as part of the job?  Do you stop and think about what might have caused the issue?  Do you deal with it head on, making appropriate decisions?  Do you go and talk directly with the person, believing the best rather than assuming the worst?  Do you stay even-keel so that others see you understand the situation?  Do you act quickly when needed, so that others see you understand the situation?  Do you do a follow up so that you and others learn from what happened? you continue to have HOPE that things will be better tomorrow?  Do you continue to have HOPE that people really want to do their bests at all times?  Do you have HOPE that the organization is strong enough to withstand this disappointment?  Do you have HOPE that you and your team have enough fortitude to weather this moment?

"...and HOPE does not disappoint us." (Romans 5:5)


Jim Blanchard said...

I like the word disappointments rather than failures. The disappointments may be caused by a failure to reach a goal, to hire the right person etc, and the work failure has such a stigma I may find my self looking for an external reason for the failure as opposed to turning the disappointment into a learning experience.

If the Cubs watched the series they can see that very aggressive play disrupted even the best of pitchers and a lot of overt spirit by everyone on the team turned one great base running decision generated enough imbalance to eventually win the game.

What do we do with our disappointments?

Margie said...

I think you bring up a valid point about disappointment and leadership. Leadership is not always a success story, and it is not for those that can’t take some criticism or disappointments. Many times leaders are put in situations to fix a problem that otherwise doesn't have much hope. In the end what is important is that leaders can identify when things aren't working to give the right attention to critical things that need it. Leaders need to be able to delegate while still having the right monitoring tools in place to see if progress is being made. Empowering people is one thing, but monitoring their progress is still critical to know if additional resources are needed or if there are limiting factors that were not previously understood. Leadership can be difficult, but trust and have faith in God and hopefully the successes will outnumber the disappointments.