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Have you ever had a perfect plan until it came time to execute the plan? Mike Tyson is quoted as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

Have you seen this play out in your life?

Maybe you’re not a boxer. Okay, most of us aren’t boxers. But the premise is still true. Our plans can make all the sense in the world until we have to execute them.

First, a quick word. April at 3QL means I dig into my past and bring some leadership lessons from the farm. If you’re new, or if you’d just like a refresher, you can see some of the lessons from the farm posts from the past by clicking here, here, here, and here. Now, let’s move forward!

I saw this on the farm all the time. Last week I talked about moving cattle. Well, there’s one thing you need to know about cattle: there’s never a pre-meeting with the herd leader to determine the best, most efficient path.

Sometimes, when you move cattle, chaos ensues.

My dad had a draw (essentially a big ditch that has washed out over time) that runs through his land, separating a few of his fields. At one point specifically, the draw separates East/West and a county road separates North/South, creating a four corner situation with a 40 yard buffer in the middle running every direction.

If we wanted to move cattle across the road, it was simple enough. But if we want to move cattle across the draw, we could never predict which route was going to be taken.

That’s why we would discuss possible plans. Ideally we wanted the cattle to come out of the field and walk down the road across the draw, but it didn’t always work that way. Sometimes they would be moving fast enough that they would run across the road and we had to cross the draw at a different point. Sometimes they would go out of one gate and turn the opposite direction. And on occasion, they would take the most logical path.

But at the end of the day, those transition moments were crucial. We had to pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing the long term goal superseded the immediate situation.

The same is true for leadership. As you lead, you are going to get a sense of the direction and destination. Thankfully you work with people and not cattle, so you can discuss this. But please understand, everyone has a plan until they have to execute the plan.

The best plans on paper don’t always translate. So you have to learn to adapt in the moment. Remember, transition moments are crucial. Pay attention and respond appropriately, knowing that the long term goal supersedes the immediate situation. Take the time to adapt and move forward.


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