By Tommy Weir, Special to Gulf News
I’ve got a quandary in my mind, which do I choose: productivity or improving the quality of my work? I realised this morning that a desire for improvement is actually a limiter on what I produce. My mind naturally sees a big picture.
Instead of focusing on the reality or requirements in front of me, my brain automatically generates grand ideas, driven by the belief that whatever I am working on could be so much better than it is. An idea will come up in a meeting and, instinctively, my mind starts racing ahead.
Frankly, the solutions that my brain conjures up usually go far beyond what is required, but those solutions represent real possibilities and they stand for something I truly believe in: striving to do the best I can do and be the best I can be.
The problem is, striving for perfection — or as close as I can get — invariably comes at the expense of speed.
When speed dominates
In his book, “Blitzscaling”, LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman, reveals the secret to starting and scaling massively valuable companies, and his conventional wisdom can be applied to everyday work. One of his key messages is to simply get something out there. In an environment of uncertainty, he points to the importance of speed over efficiency when you need to grow really, really quickly.
Now, in some scenarios that is sound advice, but something has to give. And when it comes to churning things out fast, it is quality that often takes the hit.
That’s not to say that the quality would necessarily be bad — just not as good as it could be, and for people like me, that prospect does not sit well.
In my own case, I find myself trying to accomplish grand ambitions inside modest time constraints, and this realisation is what led me to frame the dichotomous choice between productivity and quality. Let me give you an example: My team and I recently decided that we should have a publicly available white paper to help organisations understand what human productivity is.
True to form, the idea of writing the paper excited me and I instantly envisioned writing a piece that would become the reference point for productivity and shape the future debate. The thing is, I already have an unpublished white paper that I had previously written on the topic, which could be painlessly refashioned to meet my current needs. (In fact, it is with me on the plane right now as I write this column.)
The constraint on time
The dilemma is this: Do I rework that paper, knowing that it would meet the immediate requirements? Or do I write a new paper from scratch that would potentially shape how the world thinks about productivity? I know the choice I should make in the name of speed and efficiency, but I also know the one that I want to make.
This is a concrete example of the many competing expectations and decisions that fall upon a leader. Leaders are always encouraged to be productive, but to never accept good enough as good enough. These two messages simply don’t fit.
Similarly, as a decision-maker, you will be expected to keep the focus, yet lead today for tomorrow’s future; and consult others, but act decisively and give direction.
It’s easy to teach leadership as a science. However, the practice of leadership is far more nuanced. It is an art — an art that should be based upon science.
The difficulty is, art is subjective, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is where human agency — you as the leader in your given environment — enters the equation.
Making the decision between getting something done now or taking the time to make it better requires a subjective choice. There is no universally correct answer as there would be in science.
The point is, while there are rules to leadership, leading is also an individual expression. And to master that, you need to be a master artist.
Tommy Weir is the CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.