In the midst of the card game, I was focused on the goal of building a particular hand– a set of five with a set of three. I already had the set of three, using two 2’s and one wild card as a stand in for the third 2. Now I was working on the set of five. The rest of my cards were four 8’s, and three 9’s, and I just could not build them to a set of five.
Or so I thought.
It was an eye-rolling moment after the fact. The winning hand was right in front of me. But I missed it by not using the wild card well. All I had to do was use the wild card as an 8 instead of a 2, and I would have been all set.
I learned some important leadership lessons from that one “badly played hand,” lessons that go beyond a game.
What went wrong? At least three things.
I had tunnel vision.
Instead of taking a 30,000 foot view and looking at all my options, I limited my focus. I felt I had one part of the challenge solved, so I needed to move to another. But taking a step back to evaluate the whole picture would have led to solving both. What problem are you facing at work that would benefit from a step back?
I tried to tackle the problem at the wrong time.
This last round of cards was occuring near my bedtime, and my mind was also preoccupied. I wasn’t at my best when evaluating the problem. I was under a time restriction, so it is what it is. But for many work problems, there is some flexibility in deadline (truly, there is.) Are you doing your problem solving thinking when your energy and focus is at its best?
I didn’t allow the wild card to use its potential.
Is there a “wild card” in your organization? That one who is a little unpredictable and hard to control? Sometimes wild cards are keys to our freedom. If I’d released my wild card to shine in another area, I would have won. Are there people or processes in your work that you keep in a box instead of thinking where else they could be shine?
Leaders, don’t box yourself (or your people) in. Take a wide look, tackle problems at the best possible times, and give those wild cards a chance!