Planning is extremely important in business leadership. However, leaders need to recognize that even the best-laid plans can fall short for a number of different reasons. When leaders place too much stock in their plans, they can feel discouraged when they are foiled. For this reason, persistence is a critical quality for leaders. Ultimately, persistence may be more important than planning so that business leaders can move forward when they have been knocked down. The ability to balance planning with persistence is important for several reasons, including the following:
1. Planning does not mean adaptability.
When planning for the future, business leaders often develop contingency plans. While these contingency strategies are important, they are not the end of the story, since no set of contingency plans will cover every possible situation. While creating contingency plans is important, they can also become a liability if leaders have no idea what to do when none of the plans fits the situation. When things become confusing and unclear, leaders need to have the confidence to continue moving forward and to make adjustments as necessary to transcend the chaos. This adaptability helps companies to thrive even in times of turmoil, and it must come from the top down. Leaders serve as an example to other people at the company about how to roll with the punches and keep going even when no script exists.
2. Planning does not guarantee execution.
Sometimes, leaders spend hours planning for the future without actually thinking about how all of those plans will be executed. A solid plan becomes absolutely useless if it cannot be executed properly. Since situations can change very quickly in business, leaders may often find themselves at an impasse in terms of execution. At these moments, it is important to identify an alternate route and not become paralyzed. Persistent leaders figure out a different path toward their goal. Execution can also become a problem if not everyone at a company buys into the plan. Leaders need to discuss their plans with other decision makers and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Doing so may help to identify contingency plans and alternate courses in the process, or it could point to a whole new and more promising direction.
3. Planning does not always lead to the expected outcome.
Even when plans are executed correctly down to the last detail, there is no guarantee that the expected outcome will occur. Obstacles can appear out of nowhere, which is why plans tend to change frequently, particularly in business. Leaders need to ensure that their planning does not distract them from what lies ahead. A captain whose nose is in a map when a ship crashes into an iceberg is neglecting his or her fundamental duties. Leaders need to keep the big picture in mind and to survey the landscape to look for potential obstacles and problems. While changing course does not mean failure, quitting certainly does.
4. Planning is no guarantee against the unknown.
Business leaders can never prepare themselves for every unknown. Attempting to do so would waste time that would be better spent in other pursuits. For that reason, contingency plans need to account for the most obvious and most likely unknowns. However, leaders need to also be prepared to think on their feet. Everything from the economy to the financial situations of major customers can change quickly and drastically affect a company. When these unknowns arise, it is persistence that helps leaders take a step back, evaluate the situation, and proceed calmly. The unknown is not the end of the world. In fact, the unknown is really just business as usual.
5. Planning does not provide the opportunity to gain insight.
Leaders grow the most when they deal with the unexpected. If everything always goes according to plan, leaders will feel crippled when something does eventually go wrong. Persistent leaders understand that there is value in facing the unknown and learning what does and does not work. The lessons that leaders learn while facing adversity will help them to plan better in the future and think more effectively when they need to make snap judgments. Persistence is the quality that helps leaders to gain wisdom. While leaders may learn something when their plans go as expected, they gain the most insight when their plans fail.
Find a balance between persistence and planning.
While persistence is important for professional growth and adaptability, too much persistence can lead to stubbornness. Planning for the future means thinking ahead and preparing for change. When the scale tips too far toward persistence and not enough toward planning, leaders can become resistant to change. Persistence means figuring out what went wrong and learning from your mistakes rather than letting them undermine your motivation. When persistence evolves into blindly moving forward with the same strategies, it’s time to start thinking more critically about the future of your company. In the end, persistence is about perseverance, not stubbornness. At its core, persistence is about finding new paths toward the same goal—not repeatedly going down the same path that didn’t work before.