On Caution

I’m not a particularly cautious person. I’m the person in the room who wants a quick decision and subsequent quick action. I get bored discussing alternatives after a decision is made, and a slow phasing-in of something sometimes feels like slow torture. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think through the problem in order to reach a good solution, this means that I tend to want to move into action immediately without rethinking things.

My lack of caution can be both a strength and a weakness. In crisis situations, my willingness to jump in and try possibly risky solutions has allowed me to solve the issues quickly. (Well, most of the time, anyhow.) There have been occasional times that my lack of caution costs a bit of time, but that has been the exception rather than the rule. In day-to-day life, though, I could probably benefit from having a few more second or third thoughts. I’d certainly get in less trouble with my mouth!

As a leader, it is my responsibility to balance caution and action. I’ve learned that I have to have at least one person around me who tends towards caution in order to best achieve that balance.

I first experienced this in my second IT job. I worked with a woman who I actually nicknamed “repercussions woman” for her ability to identify and voice her concerns about any project or action. At first, I found her constant raining on my parade quite frustrating. I’d already carefully considered things and formulated an action plan, so I didn’t want to hear anything that would change my implementation! As time went by, however, and she saved my bacon more than a few times, I learned to bring everything to her (often before formulating my action plan) in order to get her insight. Her talent for finding potential issues balanced my tendency to plow ahead, and our collaborative work product ended up being much stronger as a result.

I’ve led many geeks with similar talents for finding potential problems and “thinking things to death”. Their talents help me to be a better, stronger leader by bringing up consequences while my talent allows us to accomplish things quickly. The combination leads to a stronger department and better overall results.