Monday, March 26, 2012

Nothing Counts Before the Word "But"

I've talked with a lot of friends recently and constantly heard words like "I plan to do (insert idea here), but..."

One of my favorite shows is the Game of Thrones from HBO. One of the the scenes at the Wall is where Tyrion Lannister is in a conversation with Benjen Stark. The actual conversation isn't important, but one particular line is:

You know, my brother once told me that nothing someone says before the word "but" really counts
-Benjen Stark 

Such a fantastic quote, and one that I am starting to realize needs to be used more often. Every time you find yourself saying "I would do x, but..." then you should stop right there and analyze that "but."  If you think the "x" is a good idea, then you need to dissect what is stopping you. In one of my previous blog entries I talk about Colin Powell's Leadership Lessons, and number 15 is:

Part I: Use the formula P=40 to 70, in which P stands for the probability of success and the number indicates the percentage of information acquired.
Part II: Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut.

So, with that in mind, if you are 40% or more sure that "x" is a good idea then the "but" doesn't matter. You need to go with your gut and execute, take COMMAND. You should be finding ways to overcome those obstacles instead of using that obstacle as an excuse. If you aren't at least 40% sure, then you need to start planning a way to get to at least 40%. If the obstacle is financial, how do you save to get to the point where you can execute? If the problem is people, how do you find the people you need? In the meantime, what other activities can you do to move your goal forward? If you cannot move past the obstacle, then you should build up your supplies and work toward overcoming or flanking that obstacle. 


On the other hand, if you cannot find a way to move forward then perhaps you need to step back and examine your idea. Take a look at your gut, as Colin Powell suggests. Perhaps the "x" isn't fully CONCEIVED. Take a look back at your plan, analyze which path you want to move forward with, and remember that going over the mountain may not always be the best route. Sometimes you need to work your way around it. And if you cannot find a way to do either of those, then you may need to shelve it. Stop holding onto an idea that cannot happen. A plan doesn't always work, and because of that, a leader will evaluate the reality of the situation and formulate a new plan to move forward. Unfortunately that may mean giving up your original goal in order to advance for the benefit of the team. Remember, no decision is a decision all by itself!

Now, if you find members of your team using that "but" then you need to ask them to look into it. Never let people rest on that "but." Instead, ask them to look at it. Why is this "but" standing in the way? Is it really an obstacle, or an excuse? What other solutions are there?  They need to find ways around the "but." If they cannot, then perhaps you don't have the right people looking at it; or perhaps you need to step back and decide if the plan still works, or needs to be re-addressed (or shelved). 

Now, the decision to move forward or change the path is part of COMMAND. If you or your team stands still, then the situation is changing around you. don't let the "buts" stand in the way.

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