My daughter came sobbing into the house. She is usually pretty tough, so when she cries in pain, I know to pay attention. She was swinging in the hammock with her friend and they tipped the hammock. My daughter landed on the ground and her friend, on top of her. I saw no bruises or cuts. I prescribed the usual, ice the arm and take it easy for a while. I saw no evidence of any significant injury and found it hard to believe there was something really wrong.
Three days she continued to complain. She couldn’t lift her arm, she was in pain, she was uncomfortable. I found it hard to believe there was anything significant as there were no signs of trauma to her arm. I prescribed more icing and some Motrin. Then my wife intervened. On the night of the third day we went and got X-rays at the urgent care. Turns out my daughter broke her upper arm!!! What was so hard to believe was in plain view with the X-rays. My daughter has a cast on her entire arm now.
I find it hard to believe I was so myopic in dealing with her condition. I find it hard to believe that I didn’t want to believe there was anything seriously wrong with my daughter. I”m grateful to my wife for insisting on going to the urgent care. I’m grateful to the doctors and the technology that can examine below the surface for evidence. I’m grateful to my daughter for insisting that she’s not well.
Too often leaders find it hard to believe what they don’t want to believe. When data is negative or reports are frustrating, leaders can overemphasize their optimism and choose to overlook what is evidently in front of them. As human beings we want to deny or diminish what is hard to believe. But when leaders cannot embrace the brutal facts, livelihoods become at risk.
The work of leading includes the ability to stare directly into undesirable conditions and accept them as they are. Leaders who find it hard to believe that the economy tanked, or that government regulations are changing the world, or that shifting generations need to be managed differently, or that contemporary management is inclusive, or that people work toward purpose as well as compensation, or any of the significant changes affecting leadership, will be leaders who ruin their companies.
If you’re leading, then who is your “wife,” that trusted advisor that will force you to look at what is hard to believe? If you’re leading, then what is your “X-ray” system for looking below the surface of events?
The power of executive coaching is just that – we provide unbiased and objective feedback to drive strong introspection and face brutal facts!