My mother was a classy and wise woman and in many ways, thoroughly modern. Not only was she a beauty queen in college, a high school music and English teacher, an accomplished pianist and organist, leader of the church choir, loved poetry (a descendant of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), but also the mother of four boys and a girl. Any one alone is a great achievement, especially in the 1930’s and 40’s. It is a miracle she kept her sanity and sense of humour (with four rambunctious boys to raise). But her real gift were “pearls of wisdom” to help us navigate life’s ups and downs.
And one of her favourite “pearls of wisdom” to us boys was:
Patience is a virtue.
Young boys live fully in the moment and having to wait for things, like Christmas or the opening day of fishing or hunting season, was excruciatingly painful. We wanted it NOW!
Fast forward to 2014. You and I live in a world where speed is an asset and NOW is the only time that exists. Texts are instant and seem to demand instant replies. News from around the world flashes across pc screen and mobile phone alerts as it happens. And success in the highly competitive global marketplace is about being their first. Today’s mantra seems to be something like:
Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen.
The Good News and Bad News about Patience:
But as I see it, patience has its place today more than ever before, and yet there are also times when patience is definitely not a virtue. Let me explain.
Many good business strategies don’t get traction because management doesn’t wait long enough for the plan to develop and begin to get traction. At the first sign of negative results or a missed target, they convene a meeting to revise the plan. Strategic plans take time for people to understand, to replace old business processes with new ones, for customers and suppliers to get on board. Strategies are not overnight tactical manoeuvres.
A strategy only works if you stick with it
On the other hand, there are times when patience is definitely not a virtue, but is actually harmful to your company. Here I am talking about corporate culture. We all know that a culture aligned with the strategy and that supports and grows people acts as a catalyst for achieving business success. And culture is made up of repeatable, everyday behaviours about how people deal with issues, treat each other and treat customers and suppliers.
So imagine the real life example of a VP overhearing a conversation among managers that goes something like this: “I can’t believe those idiots in purchasing. They screwed up my order again, and it’s not the first time and the customer is yelling at me. The next time they want support from my department they can forget it!”
Heard that one before, or something similar? Definitely not the type of blaming, unaccountable culture that makes for success.
Now come the choice, patience on the part of the VP, don’t get involved, mention it to their supervisor whose job it is to manage that area? Or act immediately, interrupt and use the opportunity as a “coachable moment” to talk about culture, accountability, blaming, and working together to fix the problem?
If you don’t get involved, you get the culture you ignore!
Patience, like many leadership skills is situational. And leaders are paid to make choices! Choose wisely.
Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success. ~Napoleon Hill
Thanks for joining the conversation.
John R. Childress
Senior Executive Advisor on Leadership, Culture and Strategy Execution Issues,
Business Author and Advisor to CEOs
Visiting Professor, IE Business School, Madrid
+44-7833-493-999 uk mobile
Just published: LEVERAGE: The CEO’s Guide to Corporate Culture
PS: John also writes thriller novels