How Do You Know When To Pick Your Battles?

Lately, I have found myself uttering the phrases “we need to pick our battles” often followed by “there are bigger fish to fry” at least once per week- enough to notice it and write a blog post about it.

When running a complex business operation, there will always be problems to solve and coworkers that you disagree with, but if you take action on every problem and confront every disagreement, you will actually lessen not increase progress. Strategically, picking your battles will increase your leadership effectiveness.

How do you know which battles to fight? Ask yourself this set of questions…

  • Does the issue in question tie to one of your department or company priorities?
  • Even though you disagree with the idea or approach, can you live with it? Will it still address the problem, but in a different way?
  • Working with others is about give and take. Has this person outwardly supported one of your ideas in the past?
  • Does the person you disagree with have more expertise about the problem than you do? Is your ego getting in the way?
  • Should you even be involved with this issue or do you need to let go and allow the right people solve it, i.e. delegate and empower?

If you are still not sure, wait at least another day and/or run the scenario by a trusted coworker or boss and get their input. It can difficult if/when you are too close to an issue.

If you do decide to pick a battle, you must approach it very strategically. You must think through and be able to articulate the business impact of the possible wrong decision and the benefits of your approach. You must bring data, stories, pictures etc.. whatever will help illustrate your point of view.

Don’t pick your battle until you are prepared. If you need more time, try this phrase one of my recent bosses uses effectively  “I need some time to process your ideas (or point of view). Can we meet again at XX time?” By using the word “process”, you are not stating disagreement yet- so the person does not get defensive and you lay the groundwork for a positive follow-up meeting.

Strategically choosing your battles will improve your leadership effectiveness – you will get more of the right work done, build stronger relationships and continually  develop team members.  It is so true… there are often bigger fish to fry!

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About Marci Reynolds