This is oversimplified, but you can boil the purpose of most teams down to:
- Leadership Teams
- Management Teams
Leadership teams provide vision and mission and deal with the difficult issue of dilemmas. Management teams make the tough choices of executing the vision and mission in the most cost-effective manner.
If you’re not dealing with dilemmas, you’re not a leadership team
Most management teams are dealing with right vs wrong issues. The answers may be difficult and the team may be divided, but in the end, they can be categorized as right vs wrong.
Dilemma issues are very different. They deal with right vs right issues. For instance, almost all leadership teams deal with short-term vs long-term. Should they deal with both? Yes. But often, the resources needed to give both fronts adequate support are not available. So they now face a dilemma.
- Should they apply the available resources to deal with their short-term issues? Yes!
- Should they invest in the long-term success of the company? Yes!
- Are there enough resources to do both? No!
They are now faced with a dilemma. Both answers are yes; they just don’t have the resources to do both. Which option do they invest in?
Horns of a Dilemma
The origin of the word dilemma is delaminated. This refers to the horns of a bull that are laminated. Thus, when you’re in a dilemma, you’re being forced to pick one horn or the other, knowing that you’re still going to get gored by the opposite horn.
If you decide to put your available resources toward fixing and supporting the short-term, the long-term issues are going to gore you. Or visa versa.
The issue for leadership teams is to be transparent about their decisions and document, document, document. It’s all too easy for someone to second guess the team’s decision when the other option is goring them.
When dilemmas are not being handled in a completely transparent way or there is inadequate documentation, someone will be thinking or saying, “The Leadership Team should have seen this coming and given it the adequate resources to prevent this mess (being gored).” The truth is that they did, but they were faced with right vs right choices and those issues are much more challenging than right vs wrong issues.
If your leadership team is not dealing with right vs right issues, they’re a management team!
I am currently facing a genuine personal dilemma. I have a liver disease called NASH. The first two letters stand for non-alcoholic. My liver scars over as if I’ve been a heavy drinker all my life and begins to shut down even though I don’t drink any alcohol.
Trying to understand the issues I face as my liver continues to fail, I’ve spoken with two heart transplant surgeons that I know. Even though they are separated by geography, they both gave me the same answer. I’ll have to choose between a liver transplant or continue to treat and deal with the symptoms of a failing liver. But they both said there is no right answer. Either way will produce difficult issues that I’ll have to face and deal with the best I can. But while there is no right answer, they both advised me that I must come to peace with the direction I choose.
At that point, it hit me. I’m dealing with a very real, very impactful, very difficult decision. I’m facing a dilemma. And the only advice the surgeons could offer me was to be at peace with the decision that I make.
Leadership Teams face the same issue. They must reach a certain level of peace with their decision, knowing full well that at some point they’re going to get gored by the other option.
This is a very difficult task. It’s difficult to deal with it on a personal level. It’s maybe even more difficult to deal with it on a team level. Getting the entire team to be at peace with the decision takes a great deal of patience, openness, confidence, and trust.
It’s hard work! But it’s the only way that Leadership Teams fulfill their mission of guiding the company through dilemmas.