Borders Books. The US Postal Service. Hewlett-Packard.
What do they have in common?
Meteors. Big ones. The flaming, boiling, Armageddon-style, where’s-Bruce Willis-when-we-need-him kind of meteors. The meteors in these cases were the shifts to virtual communications — ebooks, email and etablets, taking over their physical ancestors of print, postal and personal computers. Borders kept its sunglasses planted firmly on its face as certain destruction hurled at them. The US Postal Service (a peculiar Centaurian beast caught between its mission of being a self-sustaining commercial enterprise and still having to run to Congress every time it needs to make a tough decision) seemed blinded as its volumes sank below its knees before deciding Saturday delivery could be forsaken. And H-P’s fate was set years ago when it failed to recognize that PCs were no longer those plastic cases with power cords.
In my experience, there are four kinds of “sunglasses” that are often, temptingly, within reach when such meteors are streaking toward a business:
- Denial: “This can’t be happening.”
- Delay: “Maybe it will go away if we wait long enough.”
- Distraction: “I can’t get to that now; I have other things on my plate.”
- Defensiveness: “If I admit to this meteor, everyone will wonder why I did not see it earlier.”
Big, planet-killing meteors do not hit the Earth without some warning — but you have to keep your eyes open to that black void of space, as uncertain as it may be. In my coaching practice, many times my clients sense the realities and deep down know what they need to do; they just need someone to remind them of that and encourage them to make decisions before some others are ready or even acknowledge the issue.
Leadership is all about getting out in front and leading people where they may not go on their own. Courage is as much a function of timing as it is resolve.