Bob Lieberman's Blog

Commentary and Tools For Empowering Change

Tenacity & Persistence In Leadership

If you've been reading along with me, you may have gotten the impression that I think production is the root of all evil. If so, let me reassure you to the contrary. Just one look at the economic crisis of today tells me that without lots of production there would be no economy. Eventually we'd all starve and die. 

In my model, production is the imposition of our will onto reality (as opposed to exploration, which is the acceptance of reality despite our will). So I do believe there's a place in the scheme of things for the pure imposition of one's will, and today I was reminded of that very clearly.

I spent quite a while this morning with a customer service representation from a very large company whose service I depend on. I had called to request credit for a service outage a few weeks ago.  What made this call different was the circumstances of the outage. At the time, their technical support staff hadn't a clue and had denied that anything was wrong (sound familiar?) Over the course of several days, I spent two hours with four or five agents, each denying that anything was wrong, and each going through the same list of triage questions they are required to ask me, and getting nowhere. Due to my tenacity, the problem was finally resolved after ten days.

So today, on the phone with customer service, I wasn't going to be satisfied with ten days worth of credit. Instead of accepting that default minimum offer, I demanded more – but in a way that showed respect for the agent and for myself. There was quite a lot of back-and-forth, and eventually "I'm sorry I can't do that, sir" changed to "Yes, I can do that for you, sir." I wasn't seeking revenge, mind you, just fair value for all of my time wasted.

This experience was my daily reminder that tenacity is a legitimate part of the production activity. Production is the application of will to reality, and sometimes reality doesn't seem to want to be pushed around. Persistence may be necessary. Technical and logistical problems, especially, can often be resolved with pure persistence, so long as it is respectful.  

So, yes, there are times when you need to Appreciate – Explore – Challenge. Many more times than we think, actually. But there are also those times when you just have to dig in. The mark of a creative leader is to know which is which.

As the song says, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."