When to demand the possible from the competent

Here’s nonsense at work.

They say that a stopped clock is correct twice a day. Well, they are right because it’s true.

If they demand the stopped clock to tell the right time, a rather audacious goal under the circumstances, then wise is the stopped clock who only answers them twice a day.

Even wiser is the one who knows exactly when to ask the stopped clock for the right time.

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When the time is right, demand the possible from the competent

There are two basic ways to motivate followers. Make them stretch or make them reach.

Most proposed wisdom seems to favor stretch. Make goals big and hairy, make followers sweat and worry, so that they will be motivated to deliver their best.

Indeed. But they will be worn out nervous wrecks.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery offers a novel approach. In his book The Little Prince, a king explains he has a right to expect obedience because his orders are reasonable and because he requires “from each one the duty which each one can perform.”

His other trick is to give instructions only when they can actually be obeyed and executed. (Like instructing the sun when to set.)

Yes, some leaders do succeed by setting impossible stretch goals. But, more often than not, they are one-hit leaders.

Consistently successful leaders enable followers to reach sensible goals by demanding, when the time is right, the possible from the competent.

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide.

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