What Have You Penciled In?

I recently conducted a national study of nonprofit leaders (more on that in future posts). Since I was interviewing the leaders in late 2020, one of the questions I asked was how COVID-19 impacted strategic leadership in their organizations. One of the answers really stuck with me. The leader’s response was, “I realized that we already knew what to do. We had penciled it in, we just hadn’t implemented (it) yet.” Wow. Felt that one.

What have you penciled in? 

How often do you know in your gut what you need to do in a certain situation and yet you haven’t moved forward? There can be any number of reasons . . . maybe some other urgent priority demands your attention . . . or you want to get input from a few more people . . . or it would require drawing resources away from another important project. Maybe you have penciled something in because you know the decision is going to be disruptive and you don’t think you have the bandwidth right now to devote to it, or you’re hoping another solution will emerge, or someone else will take the lead. Maybe you have penciled something in because you don’t feel like you have all the information needed to be 100% certain in your decision.

I’m not suggesting that it is always a bad thing to pencil something in. There are times when you may have a legitimate reason for delaying implementation even when you are pretty sure you know what you need to do. Just recognize this: When you have penciled something in, you carry the weight of that “sort of/maybe/okay probably, but I just can’t deal with it right now” lack of decision with you through everything else you do. And maybe, like me, you didn’t even really recognize the drag of the penciled in possibilities you are carrying around until it was pointed out to you. You’re welcome. 

So, what can you do about the weight of potential actions you have penciled in? Make a decision. That doesn’t always mean immediate action. The decision could be that you will give yourself two weeks to gather additional information and then you will select the best path. Perhaps the decision is that you will start implementation of the project in six months. You might even decide that you will follow another organization’s lead on a particular project. All fine. It is the lack of a clear decision that weighs on you. Think about it . . . have you ever wrestled with a something for a long time, and then suddenly felt a weight lift when you finally made a decision — even if it was a hard one? Yep. Just think about the additional energy you would have to devote to moving things forward if you sloughed off the dead weight of indecision.

What have you penciled in?

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