Good Leaders Don’t Thrash.
According to Google’s dictionary, thrash means “a violent, noisy movement.” In business, it’s not much different. Thrashing in business means to quickly and frequently change direction and course—often without warning given to the leadership team or employees.
Good leaders don’t thrash.
Leadership requires a steady, determined posture that keeps the company running along its course until definitive data suggests a new course of action. The key, here, is definitive data. Thrashing is not based on data, but rather emotions. Emotions and feelings can often be deceptive because they change so frequently.
Thrashing usually occurs when things are going wrong or a plan isn’t reaping its forecasted benefits immediately. I’ve seen leaders put plans in place and then abandon them or change direction after just six weeks because an immediate change wasn’t evident.
Plans take time. Most courses of action will take at least one quarter, if not two quarters, before generating enough data to determine if the strategy is working or needs to be re-adjusted. Consider sales—often the source of most thrash. A new sales strategy may require new marketing techniques, personnel, or both. Depending on the length of the sales cycle, it may take two months to deliver leads and another quarter or more to determine if those leads are closing. E-Commerce plays aren’t much different. The volume of sales may be higher, but the trajectory still needs to be considered over time.
Thrashing takes a toll on employees. In companies where thrashing is the strategy, employee morale is usually low while anxiety is usually high. The culture is unstable and driven by the emotions of the CEO and/or leadership. I’ve talked to several employees over the years who have told me that the “mood” of the CEO each day determines what will happen. People can’t handle that environment for long and it’s no coincidence that thrash leadership generates a high turnover rate.
To avoid thrashing, follow these easy steps:
1. Set a course of action.
2. Determine the metrics that will define the length of time that course of action will stay in place.
3. Communicate the action and metrics to everyone.
4. Measure the plan weekly based on the metrics.
5. Only change course when the established success metrics are not being met.
6. Communicate that course correction is being made based on data, not emotions.
7. Avoid any emotional impulse to change direction.
Following these simple steps will add stability to your environment and model good leadership for everyone.