5 Circumstances When Patience is a Vice

We’ve all been taught from childhood that patience is a virtue. I can’t tell you how many times I was told as a kid to slow down, calm down, and get down. I hear echoes of parents and teachers imploring me, even impatiently, to “Be patient!” Lesson learned.

There are times in business, however, where patience is not a virtue at all. Here are five:

1. Patience is a vice when we’re sitting in a meeting and the participants in that meeting rehash the same issues over and over again, never reaching a conclusion.

Patience serves no one here because everyone’s time is being wasted and organizational resources diminished. Patience is also a vice in meetings when groupthink prevails. Groupthink occurs when group members look at a critical issue in exactly the same way, considering no possible alternatives. In both of these instances, it is our duty–to the people in the meeting and to the organizations we serve–to insert ourselves into the discussion, get it back on track, and to insist that all legitimate options be honestly considered.

2. Patience is a vice when we are with a prospect whose business is faced with a pressing problem and we, with the perfect solution, let him say, “I think I’ll wait on this.”

When has waiting to address a pressing business problem ever solved that problem? Never. The problem only will get bigger, more pressing, and more expensive to fix. We have a duty in to push back, and push back strongly, not to get a sale at all costs (that’s old-school sales rubbish), but to improve the client’s condition. When we are passionate about improving the client’s condition, we will not let them ruin their business by putting off difficult decisions to another day.

3. Patience is a vice when you have a client with habits that are hurting his business and you do nothing to address them.

I had a client who loved to hear himself talk. In his meetings with me and in his meetings with his employees he talked at least 80%, if not 90%, of the time. This man was brilliant but flawed, and sucked the oxygen out of the room every time he showed up. If I just patiently endured this destructive habit, I would be an accomplice to his leadership malpractice. So I told him plainly–because no one else would–that he talked too much, to shut up and listen. And then I helped him do it.

You do not have to be liked to be successful in business. In fact, there are times, and this is one of them, where being liked does not serve the client’s best interests. Please don’t misunderstand me. I like to be liked as much as the next guy. But I get those needs met from my wife, my family, and close friends, not from clients with whom I have a fiduciary responsibility to serve.

4. Patience is a vice when we accept results that are less than expected and tell ourselves, “Oh, well, I did my best.”

Did you? Many times we say things to ourselves that are terribly misguided just to make us feel better, modern society’s psychological obsession. Maybe, just maybe, what we are feeling is entirely accurate. When you’re sure you’ve done your best–not perfection, which in unachievable, but 100% effort–then be patient with yourself. If not, get mad and get going. This, in the long run, will also allow you to feel better about yourself.

5. Patience is a vice when we’re confronted with a moral dilemma and do nothing.

Neville Chamberlain was a very patient man as Nazi Germany swept through Austria, Poland, and eventually most of western Europe. His epic declaration, “Peace in our time!” quickly became a tragic joke. While few, if any of us, will face the moral crises of pre-war WW II Europe, we do face clear choices of right and wrong everyday. In these we must not be patient, but do what is right uncompromisingly. In the New Testament every account of Jesus’ life relates the story of his taking a whip and driving corrupt money-changers out of the temple. There are times when it’s right for us to do the same.

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