Tie Your Shoe

Published: September 12, 2013

A long time ago, I was running a distance race on college track team when I noticed my shoe was untied. The only reason I became aware of the problem was because my shoe was slipping at the heal and slowing me down. Buried in the middle of the pack, I had to decide whether to "make a pit stop" and tie my shoe or finish the race with the impediment. If I stopped to tie my shoe, I would fall behind. If I fought the slippage, I would have to perform at less than peak ability. What would you do?

I tied my shoe.

These circumstances resurfaced recently when I listened to the challenges of a business development team that had recently experienced the departure of their charismatic leader to an exciting new role. One of the team’s managers had therefore been promoted to fulfill the succession gap and was doing her old job and her new job simultaneously as she figured out how to wedge recruitment into her overwhelmingly demanding schedule.

There were numerous talented candidates in the queue awaiting call backs in response to their resume submissions. But the intensity of the workload failed to elevate these calls to the top of the triage list. There were simply too many other priorities tugging at the sleeve of the new leader. The anxious candidates began to question the Human Resources etiquette of the organization despite the fact that the leader harbored the very best intentions to elevate recruitment to the top of her to-do list.

We always have the choice between prevention and repair. Our new leader might continue to work two jobs forever as the drain of energy justifies the failure to accomplish anything below the top of the triage list. Or…our new leader might consider a longer term solution by sacrificing some short term traction in exchange for the ability to engage at peak ability.

Tie your shoe.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.