Leadership with heart, mind, and soul

Climate vs. Temperature

Added on by Sam Davidson.

The best thing to do when it’s 99 degrees in Nashville is to fill up a baby pool, put some beers on ice and then invite all your neighbors and their families over for a few hours.

At least this is what we did last week in my part of town. It looks like we’re in for a long, hot summer here in Nashville, with temperatures already reaching in the upper 90’s with a steady dose of thick humidity most of the day. And while this sounds miserable (I had a friend half-jokingly question why anyone is moving here when she saw how hot it had been), those of us who have been here a while know this is the price we pay for wonderful springs and autumns and we'll make sure we have a good game plan for the next 60 days.

The difference between temperature and climate

It would be easy for any tourist to visit Nashville right now and just assume it’s muggy and hot all the time. And while it may have been muggy and hot for the entire time they were here, any quick research shows that it’s not always so unbearable outside. Wait a while - even until the sun sets - and you’ll see this is a lovely place to be.

Such is the case for many of us with various responsibilities and roles we occupy. We’re in a season of busy or a time of stress and we begin to think that it’s always like this, that nothing will change, and that we’re stuck with no viable options.

  • It seems like our newborn will never stop crying or actually sleep through the night.
  • This project is taking forever and the client will never be satisfied.
  • Our partner feels distant and we’ll never rekindle the romance we once shared.
  • The house is falling apart and it sucks to live in a money pit.

In tough situations, we can’t mistake the temperature (what is happening right now) for the climate (what is the overwhelming trend).

As an entrepreneur who errs on the side of optimism, it’s easy for me to think that a week of great sales means we’ll have a banner year. But, of course, I’ve got to step back and realize that all I need to do is be thankful for the unexpected uptick, not revise all forecasts so I can charter that private jet for our corporate retreat.

I ask the same of my employees. If someone offers up in our weekly meeting, “We sold a ton of candles. We should stock up and buy 600 more,” then before I place a PO with Southern Firefly, I examine sales data during the period in question. It may have only felt like we sold “a ton” of candles because this person just happened to process four orders in a row with candles. While she was helping other customers or after her shift ended, much more happened overall. A review of the data tells us that candles were only 2% of our sales that weekend. No need to outlay so much cash when the demand is actually less than it feels.

You’ve got similar situations at your job, in your home, or with your nonprofit organization. It’s great to hear from customers or employees, but our job as leaders is to balance how the temperature feels to them with how the climate is trending overall.

How to keep the climate in mind

The dumbest politicians to me are those who want to deny climate change by bringing a snowball onto the floor when it’s cold in February. Such an act mistakes the temperature for the climate while also misunderstanding the climate in its entirety (of course it’s cold in February - that’s the climate trend!).

So, if we are to lead our teams well so that they understand to deal with the temperature while not losing their grasp on the climate, we must remember these three things.

Look at the data
When we launched Batch and while it was in its infancy, my co-founders and I would need to make quick, critical decisions. At the time, we had very little to go on. So, we jokingly came up with rationale behind our decisions that we termed “hunch-based marketing.” How should we price this new product? Where should we market it? How long should we run the coupon offer? Each question we asked ourselves was answered by a hunch - a gut feeling - because we didn’t have any data to go on.

And while this may have to work early on for your new project, be sure to look at data as soon as you have it. This will be our 4th holiday season at Batch. We now have three full years of holiday sales numbers to look at, synthesize, and base predictions off of. We’ll certainly take into account what’s new and hot (temperature), but we’ll let the numbers (the climate) guide us.

Data will take away how something feels in a given moment and remind you of what’s happening longer term beyond your small world.

Compare apples to oranges
Not all data are created equal. While inventory or marketing decisions can be made with the assistance of spreadsheets, those of us trying to lead with heart, mind, and soul will also need to look at that which can’t be measured with a chart.

If things seem slow or you feel like the wheels are going to come off at any second, don’t merely turn to your P&L statement or look at your cash flow projections. Also consider things like employee morale, company reputation, or even your personal overall happiness level. While these intangibles won’t pay the lease, they are important indicators of climate. These factors also have to be examined to determine overall company climate or else you’ll soon create a climate where numbers matter more than people. Busy seasons can feel like that already; you don’t want that to become the overarching climate lest you lose people who are important to you and your success.

Take time away
This is the hardest thing for entrepreneurs and leaders to do (yours truly included). We’re in the middle of so much and so much depends on us, we can’t possibly take our hands off things for even a second, right?

If that’s true, then guess what? You’re creating a work climate that always requires you. And my guess is that will be unhealthy for you, your family, your team, and your customers. While there may be seasons where you have no choice but to be all in at all hours, that temperature cannot become the climate. Otherwise, you and your organization are doomed. Our companies cannot rest on the back of a single person. Systems become unstable and catastrophe results.

Find a time during a particular season where you can step back. Remove yourself from the blazing heat of the current temperature and find space to focus on the climate. Remind yourself (and your people) that while it’s hot now, winter is coming.

Leaders play the long game

Managers play the short game and are worried about the temperature (this month’s sales; this quarter’s returns). Leaders play the long game and are worried about the climate (what legacy is being developed; what a business’ reputation is).

At Batch, I hope to create a 100-year company that supports 100 other 100-year companies. There’s no way this happens if I am only worried about tomorrow’s operating margin per vertical.

I moved into my current house nine months ago and didn’t know anyone on my street. Last week, when it was so god-awful hot, I co-hosted the regular Thirsty Thursday with my next door neighbor and our yards were packed with new friends I’ve made.

My social and emotional temperature looked bleak last September. But now I realize that my climate is thriving. (Breathe, Sam. It's all going to be okay.)

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