Hockey is a fast moving sport. It is a game where you have to make split-second decisions. It’s not a game where you can sit back and analyze what’s going on around you.
I’ve sat in many arenas over the years, watching my son’s teams play. One thing I’ve noticed is the defense, when the play is in the offensive end, usually sit along the boards near the blue line. This is designed to maximize their ability to keep the puck in the end. Of course, if the other team gains possession of the puck and starts to skate out of the end, these same defencemen often become a liability, because they are caught standing still.
Many businesses I’ve worked with over the years have also been caught standing still. People want to “lead by consensus”, “get buy in”, or just plain suffer from “analysis paralysis”. Successful businesses usually can’t operate like that, they have strong leadership. Good or bad, they make a decision and keep moving.
In hockey, the defenseman can either attack or retreat, if he’s standing still, the game will skate right past him. If he attacks, and misses, he’s moving and can change course. If he retreats, the play is still in front of him. Either way he’s still in the game.
In life, let alone business, the odds of gaining a consensus decrease exponentially with the number of people involved. Basically, two people may agree, but ask a few more and you’re going to get arguments. The more you argue, analyse, have meetings, etc. the less you are actually working on your business…you are standing still, and the game is going to pass you by.
You can’t be affraid to make a decision if you are the leader. If you make the wrong one, admit it and change course. Microsoft was able to pull this off in the 90’s under Bill Gates when he realized they were missing the Internet boat. At the time, Microsoft was firmly on course in a different direction, but was able to change direction almost overnight and then went on to dominate the competition from companies like Netscape who had a huge lead. Under the weaker leadership of Steve Balmer, Microsoft has been caught sleeping, and the computer world, led by the likes of Apple, have been leaving them behind.
I’ve seen many companies where the only thing produced is meetings. Government is famous for these. I once spent an entire day with 30 other people, only to change the name of a committee by one word. A fine example of your tax dollar at work, as it probably cost at least $10,000 in salaries. Other groups I’ve worked with spend hours determining the color of a t-shirt to be used at a company event, everyone had a favorite color…but in reality, it didn’t matter and a lot of time was just wasted.
There are times when meetings are required, and proper analysis and/or input required. Knowing the difference is important in a leader. Minor details shouldn’t bog you down. You have to keep moving. Each meeting you have slows you down. There is a reason there are only two time outs in hockey, and it the same reason they aren’t always used…
For those of you worried about making the wrong choice, there is always that possibility. In fact, there is a good chance you may make the wrong choice once in a while, that’s part of life. If you make the wrong choice too often, you’ll be replaced, especially if you don’t react to fix the problem early or keep making the same mistake, but it’s better than losing the whole company.
Lesson: leadership requires you to lead, so make a decision and keep the company moving.