Power Plays – The 4 Dilemmas We Face and What to Do About Them

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnly 4 dilemmas, you ask?

Well, truthfully, leaders and manager face many challenges daily. Some days it may seem like your hours are filled with nothing but.

However, the dilemmas I refer to in the title are the encompassing dilemma that we face in principle. They manifest themselves in the unending stream of challenges and problems that land on our doorstep but their core solutions are critical to our success and legacy as leaders and managers.

DILEMMA #1 – We are responsible for results. We have multiple constituencies we must satisfy – customers, clients, stockholders, superiors, subordinates, boards of directors, and whoever else may hold you accountable for what happens or what does not happen, including ourselves. They, and we, want results. It may be measured by multiple criteria but somewhere somehow there exists an expectation or set of expectations that we are responsible to achieve.

SOLUTION: Define and articulate them. Keep them ever visible to yourself and your associates. Celebrate progress daily, examine and understand the reasons for the progress, repeat what works, find out why it didn’t.

DILEMMA #2 – We are in tension between a desire to be faithful to the forms of management and leadership we are familiar with and may have inherited and the realities of a changing world and it’s lack of response to those forms. The pace of change increases. The demands of the marketplace and the workplace do not remain static. We may have products that few people want any longer or use methods that just don’t work as well as they used to.

SOLUTION: Be married to results, friends with forms. I’ve been watching an excellent series produced by the BBC called Endeavor. It’s about a young detective in Oxford whose methods are a bit unorthodox. The commissioner is continually vexed because the detective has broken free of tradition. The detective measures success by achievement. The commissioner measures success by faithfulness to forms and methods. Whether it achieves the right result is, to him, irrelevant. It must not be irrelevant to us.

Dilemma #3 – We measure success by criteria that have little to do with our objectives. This is directly related to dilemma #2. Mission statements are well and good, but of no value if they do not somehow translate into a measuring device, a ruler by which we live. Daily activities either propel us toward them, leave us standing still, or move us away from them.

SOLUTION: Take a hard and critical look at what is done each day. If it does not advance towards the objectives why do we measure it and then ask why we do it at all.

Dilemma #4 – Human nature often causes is to think short-term, so do profit and loss statements. Anyone who has been in business very long knows that the top line is largely meaningless. It is the bottom line that reveals the true state of the business. The major home improvement store I used to work for would set off fireworks if large sales numbers were reached then moan and groan a few weeks later when monthly or quarterly accounts were in because margins were so thin. They achieved those large sales numbers by deep discounting. It meant bragging rights for the day, but substantial failure towards profitability in the end. In the considerable time I was there they never could overcome it.

Solution: Legacy leaders will never sacrifice long-term objectives for short term-gain. Long-term thinkers handle their staffs differently, approach their customers on a different footing, and build a substantial foundation that makes an unshakeable company.

Leaders and managers are hired to lead and manage. Problem-solving and dilemma fixing is part of the job.  How well are you handling these dilemmas? What solutions have you found and how did you implement them?

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