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Nuts And Chocolate October 23, 2009

Posted by Chuck Musciano in Leadership.
Tags: , , ,

I really like chocolate.  I also really like nuts.  It is not surprising that I like nuts and chocolate together, at least in the form of a Mr. Goodbar, which blends the perfect combination of milk chocolate and peanuts into a single treat. I recently discovered, however, that I do not like dark chocolate and nuts together.  In fact, they are in such conflict that taken together, they actually ruin each other.

As all aficionados know, dark chocolate is best when savored slowly, melting on your tongue.  You do not chew dark chocolate; you let it dissolve in your mouth and release all its flavors over time.  Nuts are a different story. They don’t melt; you have to crunch them up to release their flavor.

Mixing these two in one mouthful is a disaster.  If you chew, you enjoy the nuts and turn the dark chocolate into tasteless, crumbly wax.  If you let the chocolate melt, you are left with a mouthful of soggy wooden nut bits, which is no fun.

Every day, our leadership roles present us with nuts and chocolate in the form of various challenges.  Some require fast, decisive action: we must chew them up and move on.  Others require a more methodical approach, taking time to melt before they can be fully understood and solved.

Unfortunately, we tend to confront more nuts than chocolate in our day-to-day jobs.  This conditions us to want to handle things quickly, to react and decide, to figure it out and move on.  Every problem seems urgent, every concern is pressing. As we chew up the nuts, we inadvertently chew up some chocolate, creating bigger problems.

Some problems require time. In some cases, you can use that time to reflect and consider alternatives, to really seek the right response to an important issue. In other cases, some problems solve themselves if you just let them.  This is especially true of interpersonal squabbles; letting people figure things out on their own is preferable to injecting yourself and trying to referee a no-win situation.

The trick, of course, is to separate the nuts from the chocolate.  Waiting for nuts to melt isn’t helping anyone; you need to dive in and chew them up quickly.  I’m afraid there is no simple answer to this problem.  Experience is the best teacher, and comes with the requisite scars and lessons learned.

In the meantime, as you build that experience, take a moment to think about the issues that present themselves.  Think through the implications of waiting versus diving in.  You may find that some issues are better solved later, freeing you up to deal with the urgent ones more effectively. And while you are deciding, have a piece of chocolate. Or some nuts.  But not both at the same time.

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1. Brad - October 23, 2009

Chuck, great analogy. How do you feel about fruitcakes? Have a great weekend

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