As a Business Leader, are You the Rock or the Hammer?

“Who you goin’ to believe? Me? Or your lyin’ eyes?” 

That was the question Chris Rock suggested should be asked immediately by a cheating spouse when caught. I see a variation on this theme almost every day.

Not too long ago, a client called to talk about a delinquent account. He had a really good relationship with this company – the old “one of my best customers” cliché – but payments had dried up.

My client called once, then twice. Promises were made and broken, but still the pull of the relationship held fast. As my client told me, “they’ve never let us down before.”

The fact is that too many bad business decisions are not really decisions at all. They’re made by default.

“We can’t fire her.” 

“I can’t stop work.”

“We can’t sue them.” 

The reason always seems to be rooted in the past.

Either work will reach its previous level despite the loss of major customers or payments will once again resume despite major evidence to the contrary.

Often, maybe even usually, when I talk to clients about their biggest concerns, I find that they arise out of an unwillingness to see things the way they really are in favor of hoping for a return to what was.

I can’t help them there.

What I can do is remind them of the virtues of Ritchie (“the Hammer”) Ginelli, a character in Stephen King’s Thinner.

Confronted with the seemingly impossible, Ginelli adapted. His answer to the question of how he could believe something so implausible:

“I believe in what I see. Most people, they don’t believe in what they see. Not unless it goes along with what they already believe.”

There’s a truth to this.

And a lesson taught every day to people willing to pay attention:

When it comes to running a business, people all around you may ask Chris Rock’s question. But the job of a leader, whether you like it or not, often comes down to being the Hammer.


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