Slow & Steady

Gerwig 2013-11-20

Do you have a “green thumb?” Do plants thrive under your care? Have you ever planted a seed and watched it grow? Many people seem to have a way with plants. They can make a sick looking plant healthy. They can place seeds in soil and produce vibrant plants. They can produce a higher yield in their garden than their neighbors. In short, some people seem to be gifted when it comes to growing healthy plants. Other folks do not have a green thumb. They kill every plant they’re given. They don’t have a green thumb.

They do something that kills plants or, at a minimum, makes them unhealthy. Maybe it’s too much water. Maybe it’s too little sunlight. Maybe it’s poor soil. For whatever reason, some people have a “green thumb” and some people don’t have a “green thumb.” But whether you have a “green thumb” or not, it’s apparent that seeds don’t grow into plants overnight. Short of Jack-in-the-Beanstalk-type-beans, if you plant seeds, it will take a while (days, weeks, months or years) before the seeds grow into mature plants.

You can’t rush certain things. It takes many years for a newborn baby to grow into a mature, fully productive human being. … If you want the best tasting coffee, you must grind the beans first. Great coffee can’t be rushed. It’s not instant. … An amazing Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t come on a tray that you microwave. It takes hours to prepare the food, to make the dressing, the pumpkin pie, the mashed potatoes, the turkey, etc. The best food is made from scratch, by hand. It can’t be rushed.

If you’ve ever watched a true craftsman make a product, you know that it takes time. There is a slow and steady process that is used. There is a tried and true method. Cut corners and the final product is impacted. It’s not as beautiful. It doesn’t taste amazing. It doesn’t sound perfect. It doesn’t perform perfectly. A world-class product is almost always the result of slow and steady. Try to rush a world-class chef or a master musician or a renowned writer and what do you get? A product, service, dish, or piece of art that is not the best.

Yes, there are times for a being quick. Sometimes there are time constraints. Sometimes there are financial constraints. Sometimes there is a limited window of opportunity. But there is a lot to be said for slow, steady and reliable.

Have you ever been frustrated with an investment you made in a person, organization, or project that didn’t seem to have a large return? Has it ever seemed like others were getting results more quickly? I once observed two sister organizations headed by two different leaders. One guy wanted results NOW! He didn’t care how the organization delivered them, but he wanted them and he wanted them NOW! At first, things appeared to be going well, at least on the surface. However, the results and return-on-investment were short-lived. People in his organization started demonstrating dysfunctional behavior. They burned out. They started cutting corners when he wasn’t looking. They didn’t have time to truly go deep. The quality and cost of their products and services took a turn for the worse.

The other leader took a methodical approach. He worked on building the strength of his team. He worked on defining and improving processes. He was slow and steady. Some wondered if he would make it. Negative comparisons were made to the quick leader who immediately started delivering results. In the end, however, slow and steady produced. His organization produced. They produced regularly. Their yield was good. It was reliable. It was sustainable. This leader was promoted. His organization was healthy. There were many winners.

This week’s article is much like the story of the tortoise and the hare. The hare was faster, but ultimately lost the race to the slow and steady tortoise. Now I don’t want to imply that there’s no place for the hare. There is. There’s a time to be fast. To respond quickly. But there’s also a place for the tortoise. A time to be slow. A time to be steady.

As a leader, don’t push so hard for short-term results that you stunt growth or long-term results. If you push too hard, too fast, you can end up with excellent short-term results that aren’t sustainable. Nurture individuals and the organization in a manner that encourages foundational excellence. Once the foundational excellence is in place, you will be able to produce over the long-run.

Great cities, works of art, outstanding meals, amazing organizations and extraordinary people weren’t created or developed quickly. World-class results are, generally, the product of a LOT of work. A LOT of preparation. A LOT of blood, sweat and tears. And a LOT of time. Don’t rush it. Be patient. If you invest wisely in the foundation, the yield will come.

Take a seed, put it in good soil, give it sunshine and water it. Then watch it grow. Watch it yield. Watch it reproduce.

How about you? Would you describe yourself as quick or slow and steady? How do you balance the two approaches? What pitfalls have you experienced with one approach or the other.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]


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