Band-Aids Aren’t a Cure

Every organization stumbles from time to time, sometimes scraping its knees badly enough that a “band-aid action” is needed to stop the bleeding, or protect the site from infection. Unfortunately, far too often, once the bleeding has stopped, or the threat of infection has passed, leaders think they have “cured” the situation.

News flash . . . band-aids aren’t a cure.

Band-aids are a stop-gap measure to address an immediate situation, but a they do nothing to impact why the organization stumbled in the first place. That is not within the band-aids’ scope of responsibility . . . that’s the job of a leader. But when you’re running fast — as so many organizations are today — and the imminent threat has passed, digging a bit deeper to learn why the organization tripped in the first place often gets placed on a back burner until you have the time to thoroughly analyze the situation. Which of course, you never do.

Band-aids, while serving an immediate purpose, can also lull us into a faulty sense having dealt with the situation. Band-aids are designed for triage, they aren’t a cure.

It’s much easier to see this playing out when we look at other organizations, such as bureaucracies we work with that (from our perspective) have a knee-jerk reaction to a specific situation, create a new set of rules, and then never look back to see how those rules impact other systems already in place, or if they even impact the intended area of change. Hmm . . . Sometimes, our window works better than our mirror. How many band-aids are scattered throughout your organization, remaining in place far beyond their initial short-term purpose?

Please don’t hear me say that you should never use band-aids. Without them, an organization could bleed to death while you’re searching for the host of variables and underlying situations that contributed to a particular situation. I’m simply saying that too often we rely on band-aids to try to address a situation that ultimately will only be cured with surgery.

Not sure where your organizational band-aids might be lurking? Ask your staff. They know. Ask them what decisions you should revisit to see if they are having the intended impact. Ask them to name the three key challenges before them. If any of the items on the list are ones you thought you had already addressed, it was probably with band-aid.

No doubt about it, this stuff is hard. That’s why an organization needs leaders . . . to grapple with what the organization needs both today and in the long term.

You may need a band-aid in the short-term, but your job as a leader is ultimately to move beyond the band-aid and help your organization find the cure.

Leadership Travel Guide

Blog Passport

Welcome to the first posting of my blog on leadership, specifically leadership in non-profit human service organizations, and — when I really get on my soap box — leadership in faith-based non-profit human service organizations.

I will be sharing my thoughts not because I see myself as an expert in the field, but rather I’ll be writing as a fellow traveler who believes this work requires us to constantly stretch ourselves and see our work with new eyes, while also remaining grounded in our mission, values and the reality of the bottom line.

A few topics that are sure to come up in the coming weeks, because they are absolutely foundational from my perspective . . .

• No money, no mission. Period. If you can’t keep the doors open, you can’t serve anyone.

•  Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Even if that basket has kept you warm and cozy for a very long time.

•  To maximize YOUR mission, you can’t confine yourself to someone else’s box.

• If you are a faith-based organization, you ought to be holding yourself to a higher standard.

•  Gifts and graces. They trump a box on an org chart every single time.

• We owe it to those we serve to think bigger.

•  Listen to your gut. It’s usually smarter than your head.

•  Most of the time, we just make it too hard.

•  Talents, spiritual gifts, bushel baskets, and a really big fish . . . lessons learned from the #1 leadership book of all time.

•  Iron shorts. A critical part of your ensemble when you’re making tough decisions.

•  It’s not about you . . . really!

•  Strategic fortitude. Love that term and all it reflects.

•  And then there’s transparency, authenticity, “walking the talk”, stewardship . . .

A couple simple warnings before we get started:

1)   I have a Master’s in Leadership, so I never get tired of talking about this stuff! (Seriously, this really is my idea of fun.) You may not always agree with my observations, but I promise to do all I can to make it an enjoyable, thought-provoking ride;

2)   HOWEVER, if you take yourself too seriously, this blog may annoy you. We absolutely have a responsibility to take our role seriously, which is entirely different than taking yourself seriously. Refer back to the earlier bullet — it’s not about you . . . really.

So that’s it. I hope you’ll join me for the journey, share your thoughts, push back, and stretch my thinking.  It should be a fun ride!

–Debbie Reed