Hiding from a Challenge? I Can Tell by Your Clothes

Last Updated Mar 25, 2011 8:35 AM EDT

We all hide our faults, even -- maybe especially -- from ourselves.
Take me. My weight fluctuates seasonally. In the summer I bike a few hundred miles a week, so I tend to be 5 to 7 pounds lighter than in the winter when I burn fewer calories. Like most people, I have "fat pants" and "skinny pants." (Kudos to Bill Strickland of Bicycling.com for his fat pants concept.)

In the winter I tend to wear my fat pants. They're more comfortable. And they never remind me I've gained weight.

In business everyone owns at least one pair of fat pants. Maybe your fat pants are:

  • The extra crewing you added to offset poor productivity instead of dealing with sub-par performers.
  • The process checks you put in place to catch quality errors instead of finding ways to eliminate the cause of those errors.
  • The responsibilities you delegate, not because it makes operational sense but because you want to avoid handling certain issues yourself.
Fat pants are comfortable because they let us avoid thinking about shortcomings or challenges we face. Slip on fat pants and it's like your problems don't exist... until those problems go biblical and beget further problems and force you into wearing ever-larger pants.

We all wear fat pants, at least occasionally. Think about what issues your fat pants hide; it might take some effort, because fat pants keep problems out of sight:

  • Maybe a customer is slow to pay invoices, but you hesitate to say anything for fear of "jeopardizing a great business relationship," even though a slow-paying customer is the only party enjoying a great business relationship.
  • Maybe a productive but inter-personally challenged employee is hurting team performance, but you avoid facing the issue because you don't want to negatively impact his or her productivity.
  • Maybe you back off from leadership roles, formal or informal, because the thought of stepping forward is a little scary and it's safer to rationalize you aren't ready -- even though you really are.
Pick an issue you currently avoid, and then put on your skinny pants. Face the challenge head on. Deal with what makes your skinny pants too snug. After some time and effort, they'll fit great.

In fact, if you stay the course, today's skinny pants could become tomorrow's fat pants. Don't worry about the cost of new pants. In business, when you fit into skinnier skinny pants you get paid.

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Photo courtesy flickr user Franco Folini, CC 2.0
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    Jeff Haden learned much of what he knows about business from managing a 250-employee book manufacturing plant. Everything else he picked up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest CEOs and leaders in business. He has written more than 30 non-fiction books, including four Business and Investing titles that reached #1 on Amazon's bestseller list. Follow him on Twitter at @Jeff_Haden.