I was recently sitting in a Vistage Chief Executive forum when one of my best friends and professional role models shared this revolutionary idea with our group. Today’s operational issues are someone else’s problem. According to him, if as a business leader you’re dealing with today’s issues then you haven’t done your job of focusing on tomorrow’s business opportunities and operational challenges. That seems like such an obvious concept, yet so many leaders I coach – yes, me included – constantly get stuck dealing with today’s problems.
How are we going to cover payroll this week? Why is our online store down again? What are we going to do now that our biggest customer just pulled the plug?
These are all “now” issues. A good business leader would have already considered these potential risks in the past and put plans in place by now such that these issues should never come up as problems. Since things that shouldn’t happen always seem to happen though – thanks Murphy! – these same successful business leaders would already have back-up plans in place ready and waiting when things like this do occur.
My friend and mentor then took it one step further. He shared that he regularly tells his people not even to talk to him about today’s problems because then they probably aren’t doing their jobs very well and at that rate may not have a tomorrow as a business.
According to him, today will always stand in the way of tomorrow. That doesn’t give business leaders an excuse to jump in and address today’s issues though and stop focusing on the future. It simply means that business leaders need to be that much more diligent in training and empowering their teams to handle today’s problems without getting actively involved in problem resolution themselves.