by Bill, Leadership


0 Comments 19 December 2012

Have you noticed lately the regularity with which business and other leaders tend to begin a sentence with the word, “sure”, even if it’s not remotely related to what’s being asked or discussed? I don’t know if it’s a tic, the latest buzzword, or an unconscious effort to reassure themselves or perhaps others. At the very same time, we continue to hear a chorus from those same individuals that sounds a little like this… “We will resume investing and hiring to grow our businesses when there is greater certainty about the future.”

Really. Think about that for a second. Certainty about what? Since when have we enjoyed certainty about much of anything, beyond the fact that the sun will come up tomorrow?

For better than 2 years, we worried about a banking crisis and vicious recession, then, when it was clear that those things were on the mend, we averted our national nervousness to implementation of the healthcare reform legislation, followed by federal elections. More recently, we’ve been consumed by the prospect of plunging over a man-made “Fiscal Cliff”. To be sure, each of these items was/is very real.

But let’s at least accept the fact that we survived the banking crisis, and overcame a potential melt down of the global financial system. We’re recovering from the recession – really. The elections are over, and where there are to be new officeholders (none of whom give the impression of being complete chuckleheads), they will soon be peaceably sworn into office. Now that we have at least begun the process, we will be reforming our healthcare system for many years to come. It’s about time.

Look, I’m not making light of any of these. They are serious events in our nation’s history, and they indeed carry consequences for us. While it’s appropriate to give them thought, and influence the direction of events when and where we can, it is every bit as important not to become paralyzed by the fear of what might happen. As Mark Twain once said, “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”

As for visibility, I will submit that Christopher Columbus, the Wright brothers, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, FedEx’s Fred Smith, Bill Marriott, and a long list of other high achievers didn’t have very good visibility when they set forth on their respective ventures. Indeed, some of the aforementioned businesses were launched in some pretty difficult times.

In an event this week at 92Y in New York, Bill Mack, Chairman of AREA Property Partners and Mack-Cali Realty Corp., after reminding his audience that the U.S. remains a great and good country, indicated that, in his view, the U.S. is still, by far, the best place on earth to do business. When asked about risk, he and Steve Ross, Chairman of Related Companies, Equinox Holdings, and owner of the Miami Dophins suggested that a willingness to do one’s homework and then take the long view mitigates a lot of risk.

One of the lessons to be taken from the recent unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, CT is that we ought not live in fear, but we should hug our kids a little tighter every day. The same holds true for our businesses. Let’s continue to nourish them, hold them dear and then, taking the long view as Mr. Mack suggested, take steps and make the necessary investments to grow and develop them.

These are my thoughts. You are invited to join the discussion.


A pathfinder in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette is a seminar leader, keynote speaker, and executive coach. He helps individuals and organizations improve business outcomes by having a focused, engaged, capably led workforce. He is co-author of the Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. For more information about Bill, his partner Richard Hadden, and their work, please visit their website, or follow him on Twitter at


- who has written 238 posts on Contented Cows.

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Considered thought leaders in the arena of leadership and employee engagement, Bill Catlette and Richard Hadden speak to, train, and coach managers on leadership practices for better business outcomes.

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