Addicted to Queso and Other Leadership Predicaments

Kathy Rapp Change, Change Management, Communication, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, Kathy Rapp, Leadership, Learning and Development, wellness

I broke my left arm two weeks ago.  First broken bone, first ambulance ride, first ER visit.  All in tiny Columbus, Texas….which means I was terribly lucky they even had an ambulance, much less an ER.

Why was I in Columbus?  It’s halfway between Austin and Houston and I was making a pit-stop.  And part of that stop involved queso.

It was pouring rain, but I still wanted queso.  As I was approaching the restaurant door, an elderly couple (also on a queso-run) were walking in and I sped up to open the door for them.  Unfortunately, my boot hit a puddle just right and next thing I knew I was holding a mangled arm.

All because I’m addicted to queso.

After lots of drugs, surgery, a plate, 9 screws and a high-tech cast, I’m back.  Similar to grieving, I believe there are “stages” of incapacitating a limb.  I’ve gotten through “I’m an idiot” to “pissed off” to “really down” and now onto “deal with it.”

Part of dealing with it is reflecting on what happened, as well as how to move forward – which is an element of LEADERSHIP. We are in a predicament.  How’d we get here?  How do we solve for X?

Charging Forward Too Fast: Part of my mishap was because I was not aware of my surroundings, yet was charging forward – fast – regardless.  We are often guilty of this in the corporate world.  Don’t quite have all the research back on this market or product?  We have enough.  We have a deadline to meet.  GO!

Leaders want to meet deadlines too, but not at the risk of diminishing the rate of success.  A thoughtful leader will take a deep breath and figure out how to reduce the scope, get 99% of the data needed or find more time.

Lost Focus:  My focus should have been on peeing and then getting back on the road.  If that had been my primary focus (vs. queso) I would have gone into the hotel vs. the Mexican restaurant.  My focus was disrupted by my stomach.

Leaders maintain the long-term vision and know how to navigate disruptions vs. getting bogged down in them.  This is also where intuition comes into play.  Leaders have to trust their gut when faced with a challenge they haven’t encountered in the past.

Lack of Patience:  Post-surgery, I was surprised at the continuous level of pain and lack of improvement.  If anything, I felt I was going backwards and got frustrated.  My patience level with myself and those trying to help and comfort was not stellar.

In our work lives, we are faced with many things outside of our complete control:  delays, communication mishaps, lack of talent, changing economic or industry conditions…rancid queso in the community kitchen!

Leaders don’t let the frustrations bring them down.  They respond vs. react.  They communicate.  They inspire by displaying their own positive thinking.

Denial of Timeframe:  My surgeon told me I’m in this cast for at least 3 months.  What ran through my brain at that moment was, “Well, that’s what most people take, but I’m going to beat that timeframe.”  Like bone healing is some kind of race I can compete in!

Leaders are master planners.  And every good plan must have a contingency plan.  A strong leader will also push back when given an unrealistic timeframe.  “You want us to hire two key executives and relocate them within two months?  It’s November 1st.  Hmm. Let’s revisit your timeframe.”

A realistic view of time, and all that can happen within that time, is key to successful leadership.

So, I can’t do everything I want and need to do until my arm heals.  It sucks.  However, I’m proud of myself that out of an unfortunate accident I’ve been able to step back and gain powerful leadership insight.

And no, I’ve yet to eat any queso.