If I could only spend 30 minutes coaching someone with tons of potential, and had to wait a whole year before I could coach them again, I would spend 10 minutes encouraging them, and 20 minutes hammering home this principle:
Cause and effect are not always close in time and space.
Cause ===========/ ?? /================>>Effect
Everything we do and don’t do has consequences — either positive or negative. Sometimes the effects are immediate. Quit smoking and your heart and lungs show significant improvement in days. Take 5 minutes to plan for that critical meeting increases the chance the meeting will be time well-invested.
Sometimes the effects come much later. Reading biographies will give you an example to use when you run into a similar situation. Failing to address that critical performance problem in your team seems too difficult today, but will cost you dearly later on.
Smart, effective leaders (that’s you, right?) understand and leverage this principle.
1. The relationship between cause and effect is usually indirect and nonlinear. There are delays, buffers, gaps, and side-interactions with other processes.
2. Human beings are spectacularly bad at correctly forecasting non-linear relationships.
3. We tend to overestimate near-term effects and underestimate long-term effects.
4. Local optimization is rarely global optimization; the bigger, broader perspective is needed for wiser decisions.
5. You do not have perfect information, and all perspectives. You never will.
This principle is what drives the reality that today’s “solutions” are the seeds of tomorrow’s challenges.
You and I can’t change these realities. We have limited perspective and information, and still need to make choices and decisions. We need to determine what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Being aware of the cause-effect principles keeps you humble, and helps to reduce the surprise and shock when the effect comes in. Be observant about cause and effect, and you will improve your ability to make wise decisions with experience.
What suggestions do you have? Let us know in the comments!