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The Champion Forum Podcast

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Short-Term Thinking Causes Long-Term Problems

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by urgent problems that you can barely think about next week, let alone next year? Leaders face a continuous balancing act between delivering short-term results and focusing strategy on long-term goals. Often, this pressure leads to poor decision-making and long-term consequences. Today, we’ll discuss how to prioritize your decisions and ensure you balance your short-term needs and long-term responsibilities.

What is short-term thinking? Companies embrace short-term thinking when they face pressure to boost stock prices, cut labor costs, or increase revenue immediately. As a result, they quickly accomplish the goal without considering the long-term effects. In these situations, leaders often:

  • Destroy their culture by neglecting employee development and engagement.

  • Lag behind competitors in innovation over the next 3-5 years and beyond.

  • Make unethical choices to get the job done.

Q: Have you ever been in a situation where you made a bad decision because you needed immediate results? Describe the situation. What negative effects did you see? What would you do if you were in that situation again?


How to Overcome Short-Term Thinking

1. Align all teams towards one unified goal.

Be clear about your long-term vision and ensure all key decision-makers align with the same goal. Otherwise, people will work on tasks that do not matter.


2. Measure and discuss progress on the long-term vision.

Setting the vision is not a one-time activity. Repetition increases team engagement and boosts your credibility. Talking about the long-term goal and where you stand now serves as a reality check for you and a reminder for your people.


3. Consider the cost of inaction.

The common tendency is to look at what can happen if you fail to meet your short-term goals. Usually, the consequences are immediate which causes panic, but leaders often fail to consider the cost of inaction toward their long-term goals.

4. Encouraging innovation and creativity.

If you focus on too many short-term goals, your employees will be so focused on urgent work that they stop giving time to innovation and creativity. Develop a policy that protects employee’s time and ensures long-term projects remain a priority.


Q: What role does creativity play at your company? Do you feel like creativity is encouraged or discouraged? Why? What effects could your company’s approach have long-term?


5. Never Sacrifice Employee Development

Your greatest responsibility is to help your people develop. Generously invest in your people and consider that you must think long-term. If you don’t feel like you have the time or resources, consider the cost. What challenges would you face if your team doesn’t improve their skills over the next two years? Are you prepared to accept the cost of not developing your people?


Q: What are you currently doing to develop yourself? What are you doing to develop your employees? What skills will you/your team need to be successful 5 years from now, and what are you doing to develop those skills today?


Application Activities

  1. You can’t hit a target you don’t see! Think about your long-term goals. If you’re unsure, talk to your boss or ask yourself what success would look like in 5 years. Get clarity about these goals and ensure your team is on the same page.

  2. Compare your short-term and long-term goals. Are there any goals that conflict with each other? Brainstorm how you can reconcile these two goals. If you must prioritize the short-term goal, set a deadline to return your focus to the competing long-term goal.

  3. Consider how you can protect your week to ensure you are giving enough time to long-term thinking. Google gives their employees 20% of their week to work on creative projects unrelated to their short-term goals or weekly responsibilities. Can you set aside 1-2 hours each day or one day a week to focus on long-term projects? If not, what is in your way? Do you need to focus on delegation? Do you need to eliminate some projects that do not align with your organization’s goals? Your team will not feel free to spend time on long-term goals until you pave the way.

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