No Credit for Predicting Rain

Smack slap smack slap smack slap smack
Just to make it worse and hurt your pride I'll run it back
Smack slap smack slap smack slap smack
—LL Cool J, How I'm Comin'

Recently, I was reminded of one of the more annoying things that happens to the CEO when things go horribly wrong in your business. After a terrible event such as a lay off or a whiffed quarter or getting stomped by the competition in a critical deal, you run the scenarios of doom through your mind thousands of times. You retrace every terrible small decision that you made along the way. After doing so thousands of times, you sometimes find a difficult, low-probability way to get the company out of the mess.

At that point, it’s sort of like walking into the OK Corral with only one bullet in your gun—you know that you have to hit the target with that one bullet. So you summon all your energy to rally your troops and intensely focus them on that one achievable goal. You draw on every ounce of positivity in your soul to get the team behind the plan. Once you’ve finally generated enough momentum to create some hope that you might survive, the annoying thing happens. In a critical meeting with many of your best and most important employees, an influential person (perhaps an executive or a board member) raises his hand, proceeds to recount all of the company’s past mistakes and predicts that the company will fail. He doesn’t say anything new or anything interesting; he just recounts all of the company’s extremely well known problems. Gee, thanks.

To those predictors of doom, I relay what an old friend once passed on to me. At a certain point in the process, no credit will be given for predicting rain. The only credit will be for helping to build an ark.

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