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How a Lesson for My Teen is Also a Lesson in Strategic Leadership.

At times, we all must make tough choices in the present to prepare for long-term success.  All too often we delay acting to change the status quo possibly hoping the issue it will resolve itself.  When we take this “let’s just wait and see” course, we don’t protect anything, and we can put something very valuable at risk.

1 Plate, 3 Glasses and a Cell Phone

Recently, frustration ignited my creativity.  I was incredibly frustrated trying to teach my teenage son about time management. If you have a teen, you will feel my pain.  I had had it. I went to the kitchen and pulled three different sized glasses from the cupboard and a small salad plate.  I dug out my Easter egg coloring kit, and I carefully filled each glass with the right amount of water for my lesson.  I added color to each of the glasses, and I called my son to the kitchen.

He saw my set up and said, “What is going on?”.  I smiled and said, put your phone on the plate. He hesitated, so I took his phone and put it and the largest glass of water on the plate as shown in my photo.  He immediately tried to snatch it away, but I said, “Wait, trust me.”

Next, I explained that the tall glass (with the yellow water) is a full day – a regular full day. The yellow water represented the normal things that he must do on a regular day: eat, go to school, take the dog for a walk, finish his homework.  The glass with the blue water is other things he had to do - things he had already committed to doing: play in a band, hang out with his friends, take care of the neighbor’s cats (for pay). The green water represented the things I had just learned he just agreed to do in addition to the blue water commitments – in his case, join the track team.

I asked him to pour the blue water into the glass with the yellow water.

1 plate 3 glasses and a phone with bubbles

With great anxiety, he complied.  I premeasured the water to just fit into the glass, leaving just a bit of room at the top. 

He took a breath.

Then, I asked him to pour the green water into the glass.  He was defiant, “NO!”

So, I picked up the third smallest glass and poured it into the now full glass resting on top of his phone. Water filled the plate surrounding the phone and spilling on to the counter.  He was incredulous.

I looked at him calmly and said. “That is what happens when you over commit and don’t manage your time and commitments: you put something you care about at risk.”

He got the message. We renegotiated how to manage his commitments and what he was going to have to give up.

A Lesson for Leadership Teams Too!

I shared this photo and story with a few friends, and, in the telling, I realized this is what happens during well-intended planning efforts.  New ideas are generated, the best of intentions are set, and then no one takes the effort to carefully plan what has to come out to fit in the new.  Most of us will, like my son, project the status quo and do nothing rather than take the time to deliberate and carefully make room for the new.   

This gap is one big reason why so many great planning efforts produce poor results and why we have built this step into each of our Strategy Summit engagements. During the Strategy Integration Session, we carefully plan how to phase and stage your executing on your new direction and help you determine what might need to give way to preserve what you value most.

Don’t worry, my son’s phone was in an OtterBox phone cover and I did not let it sit long. It sat in water just long enough that now when he acts on impulse to say yes, he also thinks ... “How am I going to fit this in?”

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Post Tags: Strategic Management

Cecilia Lynch

WRITTEN BY:Cecilia Lynch