Some things have bad timing. A critical decision, an important meeting, a message that must be sent, a mission that must be clarified. Rarely is there a good time for such things.
But we do not get to choose the timing of when we must do that which is our responsibility. That which is the right thing, at that moment. We do not get to choose when we need to be firm or decisive. We do not get to choose when we need to be that person, that messenger, that leader.
What we can choose is whether to actually rise to meet that need and be that person. Or whether we choose to slide down the slippery slope to mediocrity and ineffectiveness.
This rather grandiose start springs forth from recent thoughts I’ve had about being a manager and, I hope, a leader. It is indeed a very steep and well-greased slope that a manager faces every day, every week, and certainly from month to month when the easy way is so close, so present, and so, so tantalizing. That meeting can wait. We should do this or that only when all the right indicators (and one always chooses one too many indicators) are in alignment. So many excuses. But being a good manager means, among many, many other things, riding the edge of that slippery slope, seeing it for what it is, being able to measure its grade…and steering clear of it.
A manager is always a manager. A leader – and managers are not the same as leaders, and while I am in fact a manager, I can only claim to be a leader if I also claim to have motivated followers, and I’m not sure I’m there yet – must always be visible and sending that message that is clear, concise, and stirs others to attention. They are very different roles, but management and leadership are both needed. And once taken, cannot be relinquished, taken for granted, or handled lightly.
I am a manager. And timing is not my friend lately. But timing is irrelevant. I do not get to choose when to deal with HR issues vs. spend time innovating vs. having weekly staff meetings vs. making presentations to hundreds of people on ground-breaking ideas. I do not get to choose when to be visionary, and when to simply keep my goals in sight and my team in play. The practical and the idealistic must always be within my domain, yet I do not always have the luxury to choose when I the former will overwhelm the latter.
This balancing act, and avoiding the slippery slope, is perhaps the hardest part of any manager that has broad ambitions of moving up and perhaps attaining leadership roles. If you are on the slope, then you will always be losing some followers. At some level, you just decide which followers you are willing to lose, because the reality is that there are multiple slopes, and any decision one makes is going to at least put one’s foot onto that decline. But until that point, the slope is all danger, and no gain.
Right now, I’m lucky because the slope is obvious. But it is steep, and even the path around it is indeed very slick and littered with poor decisions, many of which do not in fact lead from each other. One can get onto that slope via 10 small bad decisions or a single moment of cowardice.
And so timing is irrelevant. Management and commitment are not. Management doesn’t listen to the clock.