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Daily Leadership Thought #144 – Beware Of the Start-Stop-Different Syndrome

June 2, 2011

Free Man in sneakers and shorts standing on racetrack Stock Photo

“Finish what you started!” “Don’t get distracted by shiny objects” “Different isn’t always better.”   We’ve all heard these statements.

Every leader I meet has good intentions.  They want to be competent in their role as boss and make wise decisions.  Every single one of them understands the importance of managing both the top and bottom line.  There is usually a passion for the product/service or at least an interest in building a high performing business model.  No one starts a company to fail, but many do end up failing.  Why?  In my experience, many leaders fall victim to the Start-Stop-Different Syndrome.

It’s easy to have a new idea.  It’s much more difficult to see an existing initiative through to completion.  People get bored.  Results take longer than expected and cost more money than planned.  Unforeseen obstacles are strewn in your path.  Execution can be tedious work.  Employees may want clear direction but often struggle with managing multiple responsibilities and deadlines.  As a result, most organizations end up using an ad hoc management style of “putting out fires” and responding to what’s right in front of them rather than being strategic.  They take little control of their own destiny.

Seeing an idea through from planning to implementation is challenging work.  It’s easy to get distracted and discouraged.  However, high performing leaders and companies understand the importance of focus, commitment, perseverance, and accountability.  They usually start fewer things than their peers but always complete what they say they are going to do (when they say they are going to do it).   The leader isn’t afflicted with the “idea of the day” mentality and doesn’t bombard his/her employees with mixed messages and/or moving targets.

I’ve always believed that business success isn’t all that hard to achieve, but it’s the people who make up the business who complicate things.  And, as always, it all starts with the leader.  When I interview employees, I always get the same complaints about focus and direction.  Very few of them can articulate where the company is going, why it’s the right destination and the best way to get there.  Instead, I typically get muddled responses and confusion about organizational priorities.  An essential role of any leader is to provide clarity around direction and priorities in a consistent and clear manner. The best leaders also understand the value of simplicity and don’t burden their people with every idea or vision that pops into their head.  Once you start something make sure you see it through to completion. Do your best not to get sidetracked by distractions or what may seem to be more grandiose or interesting ideas.

You need to avoid the start-stop-different syndrome to become a truly effective leader.  Life rewards focus, execution, and commitment.