Why leaders obsess – and what to do about it

It’s our job as leaders to obsess. In fact, if we weren’t obsessing about something, we’d obsess that we have nothing to obsess over. If you think about it, obsessing is much like your shadow: It follows you everywhere. We obsess about all kinds of stuff, some of which is actually worthy, even critical, to obsess over. And then there’s all that low-level interference stuff you obsess over even though you’d be hard-pressed to explain why.

I am proud to admit that right now I’m obsessing over a few big projects I have on my plate: sales, cash flow, challenges coaching clients are having, ramping up new coaches, and a few other worthy issues. Yup, I always like to have my “things I’m obsessing over plate” nice and full. You’re probably thinking, “Hey, my obsessing plate is just like Neil’s.”

I’m also obsessed about writing the January 2nd Monday Morning Wake-Up that I need to write immediately after this one, whether the capacity of the 3-hole punch tray in the new printer we’re testing will meet our needs, that for the first time this year I do not have a flight booked to anywhere, whether we’ll have good weather next June for the MS Cape Cod Getaway Ride, will I like the new salt and pepper grinder set I just ordered, if Republicans and Democrats could agree on what today’s date is, and other truly worthless mind garbage. One more thing – I obsess over e-mail. I hate when it piles up. Drives me crazy. So I check it all the time. Now that I think about it, I think I check e-mail just to take a break from obsessing about other stuff.

Here are my no-compromise absolutes on obsessing:

  • Essential obsessing: Leaders obsess because our decisions impact the lives of others. It’s our job to make the tough decisions to grow our companies. Those decisions may take away a family’s primary source of income or jeopardize our personal assets. Tough situations and decisions keep you awake at night. It’s the stress that comes with the job. Essential obsessing is best described as the process of critical thinking where issues are defined, options assessed, and the best decisions made.
  • Non-essential obsessing: Hey, it’s OK to obsess about the little things – but not if you’re doing it to avoid obsessing about the essential stuff. And here’s a thought that will make your day: Think about what would happen if you didn’t waste time obsessing on the little stuff. Guess what? The only thing that would happen is your attitude and outlook would probably find its way to a state that is less stressful, lighter and – if you can handle it – more enjoyable. If anything, it will give you more time to do some high-quality obsessing on the essential stuff.
  • Decisions and actions: Obsessing usually ends when the decision is made and action is taken. Even if the decision is the best from a list of tough options, the decision itself triggers your stress-relief valve. Then, you can obsess about taking action to execute your decision. Once again, action will trigger your stress-relief valve, leaving a temporary vacuum that once was filled with the stress of obsessing. Taking action is like working out. It gets your body moving and your heart pumping, making you more productive and moving you toward your objective.
  • It’s a choice: I’m an “obsessor.” I know it – and so do the people in my inner circle. And I know I can control it. I can turn it off, if I want to. But doesn’t that sound like an excuse to keep on obsessing to my heart attack’s content? It sure does. The true answer is that I can control my obsessing nature if I give myself permission not to obsess. Give yourself permission to do stress-relieving things; it’s an amazing gift. I feel less stress just writing this.
  • Driving them crazy: Hey, if we know our leadership obsessing is driving our employees crazy, let’s do them a favor and get it under control. You’re not going to get better results stressing everyone out. Leadership is about inspiring others to achieve their full potential so you can achieve yours.

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Please share your thoughts with me about today’s Monday Morning Wake-Up. Click above to comment.

Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

Pass this e-mail on to your business colleagues, managers and friends. They’ll appreciate it.


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