Monday, March 31, 2008

Compare and Contrast

Back in the day, these were the easiest essays I was assigned in English class. Compare and Contrast..... and a topic was given. I rocked at those. I was always good at seeing the similarities between two givens. I could find all sorts of similarities between, say, Jay Gatsby and Randall Patrick McMurphy.

Maybe it was all those C&C essays I did for Mr. O'Brien in 11th and 12th grade that trained my brain to automatically go to compare and contrast when looking at situations. Maybe I did well in Mr. O'Brien's class because that's the way I naturally think. It's a chicken and egg thing, I suppose.

I found myself doing the C&C thing today. I've been watching two different entities struggle with where they are and where they want to be in the future as of late. Both have clearly defined where they want to be in the future.... it's the getting there that has them vexed.

But I am finding it interesting to watch how they differ in their approach. One is insisting on short term gain in the hopes it will result in long term gain as well. The other is willing to sacrifice the short term in the hope it will result in long term gain.

I have more faith in the latter.

Short term gain keeps the wheels turning. It keeps the cash flowing and the masses motivated. We are, after all, an instant gratification culture. Unfortunately, when we expend all you have in the 'right now', you are left with no energy for later. Marathon runners know they cannot start out at a sprint. They must pace themselves. Start out slower in the beginning and have enough to sprint at the end.

But short term losses can throttle the cash flow and is demoralizing to the masses. It's difficult to keep on keeping on when it seems that nothing is working. In many ways, it takes more energy to keep trudging through during the down times. It would be like me trying to run a marathon. I'd be expending a lot of energy just to go slowly but eventually I know I would get to the finish line.

It is very very difficult to take the latter path. You face hostile faces instead of happy enthusiastic faces. It takes clearly defined leadership. It takes leadership with a thick skin to suffer the slings and arrows that comes with the short term losses. It also takes leadership who is willing to say "we are sacrificing today for a successful tomorrow". When the "team" (whoever and however that is defined) knows that the hard work that is being done now without reward will eventually result in the job being easier and with greater reward, they are more likely to suck it up and deal. They aren't going to be looking to bail out at the first opportunity. They aren't as grumbly and discontented.

Thus, the difference in the two entities. One has leadership and the other is simply stumbling through and throwing everything out there to see what works. Leadership appears to be done both with no regard to how this will affect the 'team' in the long term and by opinion poll. Whoops, everyone thinks this is a bad idea....nevermind. "Oh. You built a strategy around our idea? Too bad for you. Moving on...... "

It seems so very obvious, but leaders lead. They aren't leaders simply because they showed up that day first. They are chosen because they have the skills it takes TO lead. Not everyone can. Not everyone should. And that's ok. Leaders need people to follow them.

Both entities are facing some tough times right now. Morale is low. They are struggling. But clearly one has a plan, a clearly defined plan, for the future. The other is just hoping something will work.

I just find it interesting to observe.

1 comment:

Lee said...

I see you share my favourite past-time: people watching. Very interesting, indeed.