Leaders Know How to Cast a Wide Net


Have you ever been in a situation where the next logical step was obvious to everyone except you? The next step or “the answer” or the solution was right in front of your face but you couldn’t see it. I’ve recently experienced several of these that are related to what I call “casting a wide net.”

Cindy came to me, frustrated. She was in the middle of job search that wasn’t going well. She’d taken an early retirement package and was looking for a new job. But she wasn’t getting any offers and she was looking for a bit of advice. No problem.

She did not want to move. Her kids liked their schools. She attended a great church. And she had just finished a major remodeling job of her kitchen and master bath. Okay.

She had worked for a large electronics company as a member of their supply chain organization—purchasing to be exact. And although she had a broad background in manufacturing operations, engineering, and capital project management, she was comfortable in purchasing and she wanted to remain in a purchasing role. For a large company. And in her current place of residence. No new job that required a move would be considered. Okay.

Did I mention she lived in a small town with about 25,000 residents that had only two large companies nearby? Did I mention that the purchasing department at the “other” large company in town didn’t have any openings. Okay.

You already know what I told her, “Wake up!” and cast a wider net.

She could stay in town and work in different department. Or in a smaller company. Or she could move. Or she could remain frustrated. She could forgo working. She could change her job requirements. She could start her own company or work from home in some capacity. But there were only two places in town she was willing to work and she’d just retired from one of them. And the other wasn’t hiring in her field of interest. She could wait. And who knows, perhaps sometime down the road the “other” would have an opening for which she could apply.

Have you ever experienced this first-hand (or second-hand)? You can’t seem to find a job? Or a date? Or a book you want to read? Or a movie you want to see? Or an affordable hobby? Or a qualified candidate? If that describes you, perhaps you need to wake up and cast a wider net.

Great leaders know how to cast a wide net. Sometimes your family and friends can see what you can’t due to a blind spot (a scotoma). They see that your search is too narrow. They see that you have too many constraints. They see that you have too many “musts” or “must nots.” They see that you may have cast your net too narrowly.

I’m not saying “settle.” If your Mr. Right is wealthy, tall, handsome, funny, cute, and loves animals, maybe he’s worth the wait. But if you’re still looking for Mr. Right after 20 years, maybe you’re looking for a perfection that doesn’t exist.

Sometimes you need a narrow target. Sometimes you want several constraints. Sometimes you wanted a highly restricted search. Perhaps you can wait. Perhaps you will never back off finding the “perfect” solution. But at least be aware of the tradeoffs you’re making.

Looking for the perfect job? It doesn’t exist. Looking for Mr. or Ms. Perfect? They don’t exist either. Same with the perfect job, the perfect house, the perfect anything. And even if perfection existed, who’s to say it (or they) will remain that way.

Great leaders who how to cast a wide net. They know which criteria are “musts” and which are “nice to haves.” They know what is non-negotiable and what is up for discussion.

Don’t compromise your values. Don’t get impatient. Don’t sell-out. Don’t give up your dreams. But remember, if you’re not bringing in any fish, cast a wider net.

Not long ago I was craving a particular dish. So I did a little research and nothing came up. So I cast a wider net. Still nothing. I came up empty. So I kept on increasing the width of my net until I had a hit. Small problem. The restaurant serving this dish was located almost two hours away. So I had to decide if the drive would be worth it. I did more research, hoping I’d find it closer to home. Nothing. I looked online to see how hard it would be to prepare the dish myself. No way! So after a couple weeks, I made the drive and enjoyed a spectacular meal.

Was it worth it? To me, yes. To others? Who knows? But the point is that if I hadn’t increased the width of my net, I would, to this day, be disappointed. No matter how much I wished for, hoped or prayed for the dish to be available in local restaurant, it wasn’t going to happen. At least not within a reasonable timeframe. So I increased the width of my net, weighed out my options and made a decision.

Have a great week and remember to cast a wide net!

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]LeadStrategic.com.


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