Business decision making, relationships, and our own self-management tends to benefit from a healthy dose of “Strategic Patience”.
Managing An Underperforming Employee: Do you have a sales rep on your team not performing. A termination may be a couple steps away and approvals from your boss and the company president will be necessary to move forward. What’s you next move? Should you proactively drive things forward or wait until you receive more signaling from your boss? Wait and see?
Giving Feedback: A training facilitator is failing to connect with the sales teams or transfer knowledge effectively and the head of training wants your feedback on the facilitator’s performance. Do they really want the feedback? Will they do anything productive (or destructive) with the feedback? How much feedback do you share? What tone do you take?
A Tough boss: You’re struggling at work with a difficult and unsupportive manager. Do you look for a transfer within the company? Do you try to mend fences and and risk escalating an already tenuous situation? Do you hunker down and wait things out?
Not recognizing when a situation calls for strategic patience versus taking immediate action have produced some painful lessons in my life. They have also been powerful learning opportunities. Employing strategic patience is an art and a science. It’s also a survival technique.
Strategic patience should be “ waged” with care and kindness. It’s knowing when to speak up or when to step back, listen, and wait. It’s knowing when it’s best to ask the question or wait for the answer to be provided or discovered later (It’s usually best to ask the question). It’s deciding that an important but difficult topic should be discussed now or be deferred to some later date.
Strategic Patience is:
- The opposite of fanning the flames. Strategic patience dampens or chokes off the flames.
- Intentionally allowing time and space for someone else to speak up first. Someone else becomes the “sacrificial lamb”, the one with “mud” on their face, the one to “fall on the sword”, or “take one for the team”.
- Possessing the resilience to fight your need to know now.
- Taking a walk around the block before sending a potentially inflammatory email or telling someone what you really think.
- Having faith in others to get things done for themselves and then letting them actually do it without “helicoptering in” at the first sign of trouble.
- A practice that requires some trial and error and frequent monitoring to determine the success (or failure) of the strategy once employed.
- Asking “Why?” once you’re decided “When” to do something. Strategic patience also considers what, how, and where as well.
- Different than being passive aggressive. A passive aggressive will often confuses the two.
- Best served with some healthy distraction and innocent “mind tricks” to help pass the time and minimize false urgency.
Have you employed strategic patience with success? How easy is it for you to allow an individual, group, or set of circumstances the space and time to play out without stepping in or interfering? Does the timing really matter or are you compelled to act simply because people expect you to act?
Don’t Practice Alone. Frankly, it’s easier to practice strategic patience with another person because they are able to validate or challenge your perceptions and assumptions and can lead to better decisions. Feedback from others helps you determine when it’s time for action or when it might be time to hold’em, fold’em, walk away, or run! #kennyrogers, #thegambler, #strategicpatience
Eli Howayeck (MBA, Kellogg School of Management), Founder and CEO of Crafted Career Concepts, is passionate about helping motivated people achieve their career, educational, or personal goals and helping businesses, large and small, overcome a variety of challenges facing their business.