In the frenetic pace of the world we live in, there is an increasing pressure to do something rather than think.  Articles abound that tell you to stop procrastinating and just do something. But there is a real danger to just doing something, anything, that has the impression that you are action oriented and are moving things forward.  This is especially true if you are leading an organization.  Recently I have the pleasure of working with someone who his team said was a superb leader. I asked his team why they thought that and they said “he stops us and makes us think”  and “he presses the pause button so we can check we are heading in the right direction”.  I learnt pretty quickly in my interactions with him that this was true, and this never felt like anything was being slowed down. Instead, there was increased confidence that the project was moving in the right direction, and by taking the time to name and remove barriers to progress, goals were reached more quickly and smoothly.

How do you know when to act and when to think?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Think if what you are doing will impact the long term future of the organization. It is your job as a leader (at all levels) to consider that, and choose the most effective option.
  2. Think whether what you are doing is the highest priority for the organization. Sometimes the most urgent things have to be dealt with first but this is not always true – is it?
  3. Think especially when there is a lot of pressure to do something. Counter intuitive but pressing that pause button could identify a more effective way of achieving your goals.
  4. Think if you have delegated an activity to someone else and they are not doing what you thought they should be. How can you support them without jumping in and doing?
  5. Thinkif there is a better way of getting to a destination by involving more people in the decision making. As the African Proverb says “ If You Want To Go Fast, Go Alone. If You Want To Go Far, Go Together”. 

I’m not advocating procrastination, as clearly there are also times when decisive action needs to be taken. But, it seems that often we too easily slip into action first and suffer chaotic consequences as a result of our drive to “busyness”.

What do you think?

Acknowledgements to:

  1. Cat Guynan for her reflections
  2. John Wenger for the African proverb that we used so successfully in our project together
  3. To Remo Gujer for the inspiration
  4. To Larraine Solomon for the counterargument that made me think