Have you ever experienced a critical moment where immediate action was required, yet hesitation or procrastination prevailed? In the world of business, such moments of passivity can carry significant consequences. It’s essential to recognise that passivity stands as a formidable foe against efficiency, and as businesses aim to tackle pressing challenges, it’s crucial for leaders to concentrate on prioritizing tasks and executing plans with precision. Below, I’ll discuss the three most prevalent pitfalls of passivity in leadership and how to effectively avoid them:
- Avoiding the Ostrich Effect
In recent times, we’ve witnessed numerous instances requiring crisis communication, ranging from social upheaval to environmental catastrophes and global conflicts. In such scenarios, organisational leaders are often expected to provide a response, whether internally, externally, or both, depending on the gravity of the situation.
A common mistake is adopting the “ostrich effect” – essentially burying one’s head in the sand, hoping the issue will resolve itself. This approach can be particularly harmful as employees and customers often expect a stance from the company. Silence in these instances can be misconstrued as indifference, potentially damaging stakeholder perceptions of the organisation’s empathy and concern.
The remedy involves promptly leveraging the skills of a communications expert, whether an in-house staffer, a firm, or a naturally gifted communicator. Assign a reliable spokesperson to swiftly disseminate your message, controlling the narrative, clearly stating your position, and informing stakeholders of your intended actions. Follow-up and updates on progress are equally vital.
- Confronting the Temptation to Delay
The metaphor of “kicking the can” represents the tendency to postpone decision-making, leading to deferred problems. A classic example from my experience in the tech sector involves the accumulation of technical debt. I’ve seen companies with robust products let their underlying code deteriorate, accumulating technical debt like a precarious house of cards. Rather than addressing this issue, they chose to prioritize growth, leading to service degradation due to unresolved code failures.
In business, decisions invariably involve trade-offs, and wisdom lies in making choices that ensure long-term sustainability. Ignoring apparent issues only magnifies them over time, often leaving the problem for someone else to solve. From my two decades of experience, deferring action is a strategy that invariably fails.
The solution is to implement a thorough prioritization process throughout the organisation, aligning goals and efforts. Tools like the Eisenhower Matrix, the inclusion of project managers, and the use of project management software can help align teams with broader company objectives.
- Rethinking the ‘Wait and See’ Approach
The adage “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them,” aptly describes the third critical error – the “wait and see” tactic. Many organisations, in times of uncertainty, choose to observe others’ actions rather than taking the lead. While due diligence is necessary, this approach can result in lost opportunities as others move forward, gaining a competitive edge due to your inaction.
Often, companies hesitate out of fear of the unknown, or they might be waiting for additional support or clarity. This hesitation, sometimes born from ‘paralysis by analysis’, can lead to delayed or ineffective decisions. Notably, this tendency is prevalent in feedback and conflict resolution within teams. Leaders and managers may postpone addressing performance issues or team conflicts, hoping for a spontaneous resolution.
Instead of “wait and see,” a proactive stance of “act decisively” is required. Feedback and development should be an ongoing process, integrated into regular interactions with your team and peers. Establishing a robust feedback loop promotes continuous improvement and strengthens collaboration and communication within the team.