When Everything Feels Hard

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done! And I’ve been in three wars!!”

Several times a year I present to groups of CEOs and entrepreneurs on a variety of topics – business optimization, business value creation and CEO-COO relationship success factors. These groups always have great energy and engage in dynamic conversations about the challenges they are facing. 

A few weeks ago, I was presenting to a great group of CEOs when one of them announced to the group the quote above about running his company. 

I have never served in the military so there is no way I’m qualified to judge that comment. But his words have lingered and made me think. 

What would make running a business feel harder than being in a war?

If I were to ask most of my clients what makes their job as CEO/Business Owner so tough, they would most likely say it was their team. Either they don’t have enough people, the right people or the right people doing the right things. And quite frankly, most CEOs may like and care for their employees, but they really don’t want to manage and coach them or hold them accountable.

I didn’t have a chance to follow-up with the CEO who made that comment. But I thought about the military and how much time and investment they put into training their people and having a structure in place that will achieve their objectives and results. 

I recently sat next to a young woman in the Atlanta airport who was a payload specialist for the Air Force. She shared how much training she had received to become certified to do the job on her own. It’s no wonder that she was already being recruited to re-enlist. 

Maybe that’s why running a company sometimes feels more challenging than being in a war. The US Military has more training protocols, structured supervision, and accountability than the average business. It’s not that everything is perfect – there’s just an acceptance that if you do these things, your chance for success will be increased. 

I believe this is one of the reasons that the books – Rockefeller Habits, Traction and Clockwork – are CEO favorites. They all offer a framework that appears to make managing people easier for the business (and by default, the owner or CEO.) 

As visionaries reading those books, they can get excited and get behind the idea of having a seamless organization not reliant on them. But working through the months (and frankly, it’s almost always years – the various branches of the US Military have been in existence in some form since the 1700’s) of making the changes to fine tune the team and become the leader who has a highly functional team, it’s just not always exciting.

Which is why our goals need to be so compelling that we are willing to do the hard things – confront the uncomfortable, keep going when it feels tedious and learn the skills to become the CEO our businesses need. 

I have learned that it is almost always as difficult to not do the “hard” things as to follow through. The difference is that I most often achieve the results I’m looking for when I choose to be uncomfortable and plow through. 

Choose your “hard thing”. You may see different results.