No One Told You When to Run

And then one day you find,

Ten years have got behind you.

No one told you when to run,

You missed the starting gun.

– Time, Pink Floyd



We spend a great deal of our formative years, learning the basics of “getting along”:

Sitting quietly.

Being polite.

Following the rules.

All of these are great attributes, to be sure; traits I struggle – daily – to drill into my offspring.

But these traits aren’t always the qualities, that serve us best in leadership.

Who is best served, by sitting quietly, when perspectives and experiences are withheld to solutions being sought?

No one.

Who is best served, when honesty and transparency is required, but politeness prevents a compassionate resolution to a conflict – and instead, prolongs an untenable situation?

No one.

Who is best served, when rules and processes prevent what is right and proper to occur, to correct an injustice?

No one. Or perhaps, only a vanishingly small few.

As a “recovering entrepreneur”, a lesson I learned many years ago, is that if you wait around for someone to invite you to act, you’ll be waiting a very long time.

Because no one is going to tell you when to start living your life. To start contributing.

To start: being awesome.

If you see an injustice, act to correct it.

If you see something that needs doing, don’t wait for someone else to act – do it yourself, or find someone who is qualified, to act.

If processes are impeding what is right to be done, act to change the system.

If you don’t exercise your agency, you will be left at the starting line.

No one told you when to run.









Unforced Errors

Nothing in professional life is more frustrating, than dealing with problems at work.

That is, of course, unless you are dealing with problems of your own making, that weren’t problems to begin with.

Without “going topical” – or political – it’s safe to say, that unforced errors are front and center in conversations and gatherings around water coolers across the country these days.

What causes us, as leaders and as professionals, to commit damaging – and sometimes fatal – missteps, when these kinds of errors are almost 100% avoidable, by their very definition?

  • Overconfidence.
  • Hubris.
  • Haste.
  • Expediency.
  • Tone-deafness.
  • Failing to recognize our fallibility and – often – our mortality.

Over the years, I have seen the potential for, and realization of, unforced errors almost every working day in my life as an administrator.

Projects scheduled for execution, during times when there is no margin of error should things go south. Skunk work projects created with no backup or documentation, but deployed in mission critical initiatives. Decisions made without the knowledge or consent of stakeholders involved or affected.

In almost every case, these issues could have been avoided through the intentional practice of reflection, consideration, consultation, and communication.

Reflection – is what I am about to do, in the best interest of those involved?

Consideration – have I anticipated the consequences and fallout over what I am about to do or say?

Consultation – have I discussed the action I am about to undertake, with the constituencies who have an interest in its outcomes? And, have I taken into account their perspectives and opinions, in the formulation of my action plan?

Communication – have I transparently and properly communicated the purpose and intent of the action I am undertaking, so that the benefits, risks, and rewards are clearly understood by all involved and affected, and have I created a space in which communication of unconsidered affects, or dissenting viewpoints, may be heard and accommodated?

Even with careful attention to the practices listed above, one can still find themselves embroiled in self-made dumpster fires.

We’re human.

Sometimes, it is our unguarded moments and throwaway comments, that are the rocks upon which careers and lives are dashed.

Even so – if we are present, intentional, and disciplined in our approach and daily practice as professionals, we can – at the very least – be responsible, accountable actors in our decision making, and its outcomes.

As my grandfather used to say – “no need to borrow trouble – there’s enough to go around as is.”