Stuck and Struggling: Direction Attention Deficit Disorder


Direction Attention Deficit Disorder (DADD) – have you ever worked with a leader that has a new idea every week?

It can be frustrating, yes?

I was brought up short once about my DADD by a graphic designer I used to work with. I asked her about any difficulties working with me (dangerous question!) She mentioned that I had too many ideas to implement and she felt jerked around.


I’ve had numerous conversations, some quite recent, with talented professionals who are struggling to help their companies grow because the CEO/President/Owner can’t seem to settle on a strategy.

Ideas – YES! Implementation – what’s that??

Stuck Struggling 2

The fact is, the company was likely founded on a great idea. That’s the wonderful thing about an entrepreneurial environment – we can see a problem, a gap, and come up with a way to serve client needs.

However, creative thinking often overlaps with restlessness. And that’s when companies led by visionaries are bound to struggle.

I’m a vision guy. I love to brainstorm, strategize, distill, problem solve – that makes me an effective advisor and consultant. But I don’t want to run a company. I don’t want to manage people. That’s draining.

Recognize this – for a company leader who is a visionary, the adrenaline is found in the new and different. Implementation, execution, process, the brick-by-brick building-out of a structure – that’s not energizing.

However – for the best people under such a leader, a stable direction, with time to put offerings and messaging and services in place, is exactly the key to success and satisfaction. You can’t construct a good building when you’re constantly editing the blueprint. There is usually immense frustration (often joined to genuine loyalty and respect) wording for a leader with DADD. Sadly, some of the best operations people – the “builders” – end up leaving.

For a company to get over the hump, at some point the leader(s) has to make strategic decisions and stick to them for an extended season. Yes, we’re in a dynamic marketplace where we have to learn to pivot – I get that, and I’m all for innovation – but sometimes the amount and frequency of new and shiny has to be throttled. Not only will your customers become confused as to your identity, so will your employees.

With great fondness, actually, I remember the 10-year run I had with a prior company, as we morphed from a craft software shop, making it up as we went along, to a valued supplier of enterprise, global, validated systems. At several crucial points, we had to decide – through some trial-and-error, mind you – that we were NOT going in this other direction (as appealing and viable as it seemed), so that we could focus on the one thing where we could differentiate.

I’m not saying that the creative/visionary needs to try to re-wire their DNA and become some factory drone. But what is often needed, in these cases, is one (or more) operationally-minded lieutenants who can actually build out the vision – with few interruptions. And sometimes the visionary leader will need to hand off the company to “builder” leaders so he/she can go onto the next new thing.

Previously in this series:
Stuck and Struggling: The “Can’t Let Go” Leader

Here are some of the upcoming topics:

  • Misplaced Persons (people in mis-matched roles)
  • Operational Vacuum (insufficient structure/process to enable growth)
  • Growth by Accretion (the tendency to take on new tasks and clients and people, without a clear plan)
  • Bad Clients/Wrong Clients (self-explanatory)
  • Inconsistent Revenue Model (something I and many others struggle with)
  • Broken Internal Communication (multi-faceted topic)
  • Commodity or Poorly Packaged Offerings (differentiation issues)
  • Scalable/Configurable vs. Custom Offerings (the craft-work, time-for-money trap)
  • Foggy Marketing/Messaging (failure to communicate clearly with clients and referrers)


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