The Leadership Conundrum: Doing the Right Thing Takes Effort

In Portugal, Nicole (our youngest) was doing an overnight at Pony Camp. Linda and I had a ‘night off’ and could eat where we wanted to – for a change. Duas Passoes is a recently renovated fish restaurant, affording beautiful sea and sunset views. Having pre-holiday made a vow to ‘eat healthily’, this was my moment to shine. I chose Dorado from the extensive fish menu. It never occurred to me to ask how it would be served…

Full-On: When the fish arrived, I started to work on it. Hey, no-one told me that Dorado have 15,267 bones (something like that anyway). I’m not sure if this would be labeled a gastronomic experience. More like a practice session for an intricate branch of micro-surgery. To make matters worse, I couldn’t remember if Linda understood the subtleties of the Heimlich Manoeuver. After a half bottle of Pino Grigio, I wasn’t confident of a well-executed rescue (assuming she’d want to perform this). I ended up essentially ‘pulping the fish’ into a sort of baby food consistency to avoid choking. The next night, I had a burger,  focusing on conversation rather than evisceration. I know, I know. Philistine.

Management Rewards: It struck me afterwards that the same broad principle applies in management. Most managers want to ‘have the rewards’ but some are not prepared to invest the time to get this. Often they are afraid of the unpopularity of the quest. They look for easy solutions, low hanging fruit, quick fixes – the ‘fast management’ equivalent of fast food. It’s reminiscent of the quip from Charles Handy: “Governments often know what they should do, but not how to get re-elected after doing it” (The Second Curve). But, as managers, we don’t have to get ‘re-elected’ so we can’t use that particular excuse. Most of us have not cultivated what the author Tim Ferriss described as: “Developing  the habit of letting small bad things happen.” (in order to stay focused on BIG issues).

Doing the right thing requires effort. Sometimes very unpopular effort. The best leaders understand the need to install ‘water meters’ and then figure out how to make them work. You can’t select the ‘nice bits’ of your job, pushing the other bits to the side of the plate and ignoring them. Leadership is a package of elements – not all of them palatable. We all enjoy  the ‘fillet of leadership.’ But figuring out how to remove the bones is why we’re paid the big bucks. And that’s what makes our jobs so fantastically interesting. When you tackle the difficult issues, the intellectual and emotional stretch felt is both a frustration and a reward. It presupposes that you’ve ‘chosen’ the right issue from the managerial menu.  In the poem: ‘The Time Before Death’, Kabir offers one great line: “If you don’t break your ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?”

Go out there and don’t be afraid. Fillet that fish!


Quick Apology: The last ‘blog communication’ sent was a repeat of an earlier communication. I could blame a technical hitch or some outsource provider – but it was my own fault. Sorry about any confusion caused and thanks for keeping up with the blogs.

True Story: Giving Feedback (Ouch!) My brother Anthony, coaches a junior soccer team in Winnipeg. The main coach, a Scottish guy, is what might be described as a straight shooter. He has tons of experience coaching soccer at all levels. During one team meeting, this young kid wouldn’t stop asking questions. “Can I play up front?”: “We’ll see”; “I could play in the middle”: “We’ll work it out!”; “I used to play at left-full. That would be a good position for me”: The coach, exasperated, said: “Listen kid, someday you are going to go home and all the lights will be out in your house because your parents will have moved and not told you!”

PS Lighter Note: Some Sayings These are the printable versions…

  • If at first you don’t succeed, blame your parents.
  • Money can’t buy happiness. It can, however, rent it.
  • A financial wizard is someone who lives within their income.

Yorkshire Humour: Sticking with the international flavour, how about a couple from Yorkshire…

The Cat: Man from Yorkshire takes his cat to the vet: “Ay up, lad, I need to talk to thee about me cat.”

Vet: “Is it a tom?”

Yorkshireman: “Nay, I’ve browt it with us.”

The Dog: 
A Yorkshireman’s dog dies. As it was a favourite pet he decides to have a gold statue made by a Jeweller to help him remember the dog.

Yorkshireman: “Can tha mek us a gold statue of yon dog?”

 Jeweller: “Do you want it 18 carat?”

Yorkshireman: “No I want it chewin’ a bone yer daft F**K!”

The Chemist: Bloke from Barnsley with piles asks a chemist: “Nah then lad, does tha sell arse cream?”

 Chemist replies: “Yes, Magnum or Cornetto?”

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About Tandem Consulting

Paul Mooney holds a Ph.D. and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Sociology from Trinity College, along with a National Diploma in Industrial Relations (NCI). He has a post-Graduate Diploma and a Masters in Coaching from UCD. Paul, a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, is widely recognised as an expert on organisation and individual change. He began his working life as a butcher in Dublin before moving into production management. He subsequently held a number of human resource positions in Ireland and Asia - with General Electric and Sterling Drug. Between 2007 and 2010, Paul held the position of President, National College of Ireland. Paul is currently Managing Partner of Tandem Consulting, a team of senior OD and change specialists. He has run consulting assignments in 20+ countries and is the author of 12 books. Areas of expertise include: • Organisational Development/Change & conflict resolution • Leadership Development/Executive Coaching • Human Resource Management/employee engagement
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One Response to  The Leadership Conundrum: Doing the Right Thing Takes Effort

  1. midwifesean says:

    I often thought that a leader , even taking in as many variables as reasonably possible , cannot consider all , and in the end fall back on their own hypothesis . When they’re found out , should they bluff it , tweet that they were right and go for presidency ??!!! Keep ’em coming Paul . I

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