I can barely count the number of times it has happened.
I learn something new and revolutionary at work – a new team management insight, a new prioritization method, a new leadership strategy, or even just a new way to run my team meeting. I think:
“A-ha! I’ve got it! Next quarter/next year/next time I’m going to apply this lesson and get it right from the very beginning.”
What a luxurious blank canvas. Next time always feel so clean, none of the messiness of today, none of the issues – only the plans to execute with clean perfection.
I conduct a quick mental post-mortem of my current situation in light of the new lesson, I figure out everything I’ve done wrong, and what I will do differently in the future. Then I package it all up in a corner of my mind and wait.
I smile. Next time I’m going to absolutely crush this.
But wait… what about this time?
What about the team that is counting on me today?
What about the projects that need guidance now?
Yes – sometimes it feels like it would be more convenient just to scrap the current team/project/planning cycle and re-do it correctly from scratch leveraging your new insight.
The problem is – next time is uncertain. It might take you a really long time to get there, it might be in totally different circumstances, or there could be other problems that are even greater than the ones you face today.
Relying on next time is for chumps.
The key to successful leadership is being able to learn new things and apply them immediately to your current team, your current project, and your current planning cycle. Not next time.
After all, if you always wait for next time, eventually there won’t be a next time.