The Badger was asked many times during his career to engage with delivery and business leaders encountering serious problems delivering a contracted project to requirement, time, and budget. These requests were often initiated by the company’s Chief Executive who simply asked the Badger to ‘chat with those responsible and see if you can help’. They knew the Badger would interpret the request as ‘get stuck in and get the problems on this contract resolved’. Being aware of the personal traits of the people you deal with, especially those in senior positions, is crucial to interpreting what they really mean when they ask you to do something!
One such ‘how can I help’ conversation with a business leader proved memorable because it spawned a hypothesis that the Badger feels has been validated over the years. Although we knew each other in passing, it was the first time we had met for any substantive conversation. After some initial chit-chat, the business leader quickly focused on describing the delivery, financial, and contractual difficulties of their project. They had, apparently, already spoken to a couple of experienced staff about helping to resolve the difficulties, but neither was, in their eyes, suited to the task. They described one as a cheery but superficial, glass-half-full optimist, and the other as a pedantic, too laid-back, glass-half-empty pessimist. The Badger remembers wondering how he would measure up!
After an hour’s discussion, the business leader asked the Badger to help resolve the project’s problems, adding that ‘you are a realist and you don’t care whether the glass is half full or half empty, only that the glass is a receptacle to be filled with as much liquid as possible’. Their comment spawned a hypothesis in the Badger’s mind, namely that the delivery and business leaders who have the most success, and also the longest careers, are realists. Engagements with many diverse business and delivery leaders over the years have tended to reinforce the hypothesis.
Being a realist means having a personality with a propensity to take measured risks and take measured decisions. It doesn’t mean never demonstrating optimism or pessimism. Those with an optimistic, glass-half-full, leaning tend to be less risk-conscious, while those with a pessimistic, glass-half-empty, leaning tend to have little appetite for risk at all! During COVID-19, for example, glass-half-full characters might have seen themselves as less at risk and taken less precautions, whereas those with a glass-half-empty outlook might never have left their house at all. Realists, on the other hand, would have taken measured risks based on knowing that the virus’s impact mainly depended on age and underlying health.
The Badger’s seen glass-half-full, and glass-half-empty leaders be successful, but it’s the realists who’ve been the most successful and had the longest careers. Is the Badger’s hypothesis sound scientifically? Don’t know, but he’ll stand by it until a proper people expert shoots it down in flames!