Whenever someone presents a staff situation to me for advice when the staff person is chronically underperforming, one of the first questions I tend to ask is, “Do you think it is a problem of skill or will?”
Effectiveness takes both skill and will. Ineffectiveness results when one or both are lacking.
As leaders we must be diligent about ensuring that we have both the skill and will that we need. We must be learning continuously the skills of leadership – decision making, giving feedback, political savvy, engaging others, etc. We must also be soul searching to ensure that we have the will to tackle each day with a commitment to do the hard things leaders must sometimes do.
In last week’s blog, I was talking about the need to courageously give feedback to those who report to us. That’s only one area where courage and commitment are needed.
Leaders must also be willing to make tough decisions. We must be willing to decide to do what is necessary when others are resisting. We must be willing to do what is right when something else would be easier. We must be willing to decide and move forward even when there is a lack of clarity that makes the decision seem a risk.
It is tremendously frustrating to work for a manager who does not have the courage to make decisions. The team spins its wheels, other colleagues find their work delayed and, ultimately, customers pay a price.
Decision making is a skill for sure. And there are books and tools you can find to help you improve your skills.
But what if it is not a lack of skill that holds you back, but worry or a lack of confidence? Then the solution is a coach or mentor.
It is important to have someone you can freely talk with about the hesitations or challenges you have when making decisions. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are avoiding a decision until someone else points that out. You cannot adjust something you aren’t aware of. Having someone walk alongside you in your leadership journey can really help with blind spots.
If you know you are feeling hesitant about a decision and you cannot figure out why, a coach can help you explore possible reasons. Often my hesitation is about the anticipated impact of a decision – impact I don’t like or believe others won’t like. Articulating my worries usually clarifies them enough for me to find ways to deal with them.
Coaching is not just for executives and absolutely not only for those with performance issues. Coaching is about growing your skills and getting the support you need to sustain your will in the tough moments.
Nobody comes to a job fully prepared for all situations at all times. All of us grow weary and find courage hard to come by on occasion. Don’t let yourself hang out on a limb alone. Reach out to someone you admire in your organization or someone you can hire from outside. Either way can work.
What is important is that you realize that consistent effectiveness can be a high bar when work throws curve balls. Have the courage to know when you need help and get it.