You’ve heard the expression “taking the bulls by the horns”? Are you or someone you work with scared to take the bull by the horns, i.e., afraid to get an issue taken care of simply by taking some kind of action? If you say no, you’re lying. I would venture to say most problems and delays in organizations result from two things:

1. Not incompetence, but competence coupled with the fear of being wrong.

2. The inability to go from the words “I’ll take care of that” to actually, well, taking care of that.

The fear of being wrong

Let’s address point 1 first. I have known of people who absolutely have the wherewithal to know a solution to a problem, but will not, under any circumstances, actually pitch the solution to anyone. The excuses range from “Nobody would listen anyway” to “If it doesn’t work, that means I fail.” RE the first excuse: Bull. By suggesting a possible solution, you have nothing to lose but a few minutes of your time. If no one listens, then at least you’ll know you tried.

RE the second excuse: Yes, the suggestion may fail. What’s the worst that could happen though? I’m fairly sure the building around you won’t spontaneously combust as a result, and the CEO and his executive board thugs won’t take you out in the parking lot and break some of your ribs. (Unless you’re a net admin for the mob, I guess.)

The lack of follow-through

If I had the clout, I would address this one somewhere in the commandments. Right between the one about not bearing false witness and coveting one’s neighbor’s house, I would add “Thou shalt follow through on commitments.”

People who don’t follow through, even on the supposedly small things, cause a burden on their co-workers. Here’s the scenario: Your co-worker, Bernie, offers to get some information for you and get back to you. You don’t get the information quickly so you rearrange some of your own duties that don’t depend on that information. After a few days, you still don’t get the information. Now, you have to e-mail Bernie and sheepishly remind him of his promise. You may have to do this several times. Bernie’s “help” then becomes a bottleneck. Bernie has saved you no time at all. In fact, you now want to kill Bernie.

So the lessons are 1) Step up and take the bull by the horns, and (2) Once you have the bull by the horns, do what you said you’re were going to do.