As leaders, most of us are action oriented. Something crosses our desk; we deal with it. An issue comes up with a customer, a vendor, an employee; we take action. And, sometimes, if we let things unfold at their own pace, we achieve a better result.

What?? Isn’t that avoidance or procrastination or fear of confrontation or, or, or?

  • Sometimes action is needed, and sometimes nothing is needed.
  • Sometimes, that annoying email doesn’t require a response.
  • Sometimes, when a negotiation stalls the best tactic is to leave it be, or
  • If the other side has already done that, let it rest.
  • Sometimes, doing nothing is simply the best strategy.

Two quick stories from two CEO’s I know:

First, a long term negotiation on a contract has gone on for several years. As an outsider looking in, one might wonder, why not bring this to closure. And, then we learn, it’s been 20 years of negotiation, minimal dollars spent, many thousands at stake. Even if it eventually settles, the present value of the money saved justifies the long process.

Another CEO negotiating with a former operating partner, still an owner. Sure would be nice to close that loose end, icky to have a former partner, a voting member. And then we learn, the former partner is in bankruptcy; looks like the CEO is going to pick up those shares at a significantly lower cost.

As Kenny Rogers says so well in the Gambler… “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away.”

For me it’s a reminder to pause before I pick up the phone or write that email about the matter I feel an urgency to resolve.

Elisa K Spain

Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner and want to learn more about my Vistage Group, click here

Share this story