Burying your head in the sand doesn’t solve problems

Theo Etzel’s Management Matters

Myth: Ostriches bury their heads in the sand.

Fact: They don’t. It merely appears that way when they flop their head on the ground and their head and neck blend into the sand.

Another fact: Some business leaders really do bury their heads in the sand when faced with difficult decisions.

Tough decisions are just that, tough. Playing the “ignore it and it’ll go away” game is disastrous. This is a win-lose situation where the problem wins and the organization loses. When problems arise that need decisive action, the leader disappears. The thinking behind this management strategy: “If I give it enough time, the problem will go away on its own.”

It won’t.

On top of that, the leader’s image in the organization is severely compromised. It’s the “feel better now” syndrome. That becomes a short-lived feeling as the weight of indecision mounts with every passing day. Avoiding tough decisions can mean inefficient operations, directionless atmosphere, as well as low company morale.

We are watching some of the toughest decisions unfold as many leaders weigh short-term and long-term damage from the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. From the outside, we as a community want to protect our environmental resources. However from a long-term standpoint, leaders from BP, the Coast Guard, and even the President of the United States have to weigh more factors than we’re aware of including environmental and economic factors, as well as the overall livelihood and safety of communities directly affected by the spill.

Similarly, Collier County business leaders will be facing tough decisions as the oil spill crisis continues to unfold. While the numbers aren’t in, anecdotal stories are describing reduced phone calls and reservations in our leisure industry.

So, as this crisis unfolds, will you put your head in the sand and hope for the best? Or are you prepared to make potentially difficult decisions to keep your company afloat and your customers happy? Now is the time to refresh your approach, if needed. As difficult decisions loom, you can be prepared to make the best decision possible through focus, discipline and action.

Most situations we are faced with are surrounded by fuzzy, extraneous information and opinions. Focusing on the true kernel of the problem or dilemma usually brings it down to a size that becomes manageable. Ask questions to reveal the true root of the problem. Many times it is not one giant problem but a series of smaller ones that have been allowed to fester. Decisively dealing with each smaller component makes dealing with the collective much easier.

It takes discipline to stay and face the battle rather than run and hide or ignore it. This is a gut check. By dealing with the issues, examining options and asking advice from trusted sources, you are doing positive things to address the problem. This is where deliberate thought and focus come together to help formulate a plan of action.

Progress happens when the talk is implemented into a plan that is put into motion and people are held accountable to get it done. A business plan on a shelf doesn’t bring a business to life. But make people responsible for sections of that plan by charging them with taking action on those areas and the business becomes a thriving entity. They feel as if they had better take action because the leader is taking action. The leader is seen as a decisive person and not afraid to wrestle with a tough problem.

Remember: Focus on the heart of the matter, have discipline to stand and face the music, and take action to correct the situation. Although making tough decisions is challenging, it is your responsibility and privilege as a leader to provide direction and decisive action.

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