On Leadership: Less Talk, Make It Happen



It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do.

~ Elbert Hubbard

Anxiety is caused by a lack of control, organization, preparation, and action.

~  David Kekich

Talk does not cook rice.

~ Chinese Proverb

In yesterday’s post I shared a challenging experience when, as a Director of Operations, a project to improve efficiencies in my distribution center went awry.  I feel to share another experience and the resulting lessons involving the same challenge in case you might find it useful in your career.

As part of my effort to resolve the problems, I held status update meetings with various leaders of the company.  I laid out my conclusions as to what went wrong and how I planned to make sure these problems would not happen again.  My intent was to rebuild the trust I had lost with the company leadership and to show I had everything under control.

After a few of these meetings (we held them daily, sometimes more than once a day), the VP of Sales came to visit me in my office.  As we talked about the details of the problems, I again reiterated my plans to resolve them.  He asked me if I had ever seen the Royal Bank of Scotland “quicksand” commercial.  I told him I had not.  He forwarded it to me and asked me to watch it.

Click here to view the exact commercial he had me watch.  Check it out before you read on.

He tactfully and graciously expressed appreciation for my efforts and saw I was trying hard to improve the situation we were in.  He then explained that he worried I was like the banker with the sweater around his shoulders, doing more talking than action to solve the problems.  He urged me to consider the situation as if we were in quicksand.  He needed me to be the banker with the rope and just get it done rather than just talk about getting it done.  He challenged me to think differently and to lead by action.

The message was received loud and clear.

From that point on, I took a different approach to solve the problems.  Instead of trying to methodically work through all the details of a solution and get buy-off from various parties before I acted, I hit head-on the biggest “quicksand” challenge, which was inventory accuracy, and had my team execute a 22 hour complete physical inventory over the weekend to update the system.  This solved 90% of the problems and we were out of the quicksand and better able to work through the other minor details until we were back to normal within a few days.

I will always be grateful to the VP of Sales for his leadership in that situation.  He was firm, but kind.  He taught me the power of action.  Sometimes it is harder to think about what you’re going to do rather than just doing it.  I now approach challenges in a different way – with a bias for action.

Are you someone who “makes it happen” or do you talk more about what you’re going to do rather than just doing it?  Trust is built, or rebuilt, by the results you produce.  You need to act in order to produce results.

Choose greatness.  Less talk – make it happen.


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