The cliché, “Pick and choose your battles,” has always been a little confusing to me.
I know that the philosophy, mostly applied in a work setting, means you can’t fight or argue over everything, so you kind of have to keep a running tab of the stuff that bothers you or you want changed and then, among those things, pick one or two and make your case.
Some people are pretty good at this; I have never been. For me, the trouble with picking and choosing battles is subjective and relies on the perspectives of both sides of a given issue or problem. You may think a situation is a big deal while the other person may see it as trivial. Does that mean it wasn’t a good battle to pick? And this happens all the time in a work setting — something I’m sure you know. Work is in essence just transitioning from one problem to the next and the subjective part is often how each problem is approached and resolved. And it’s here where most disputes arise. You may think that you’ve solved a problem, but your supervisor or colleagues might think you didn’t or that you went about it the wrong way. Does it matter that you solved the problem or was it always about how you looked solving it or that you solved it in the most efficient manner you could? And what is “most efficient” to someone who doesn’t really understand how the work gets done?
I bring up this topic because this month’s Profile on Randy Bashwinger and his highway department in the town of Berne, for me, was an interesting read. The first part of his story is pure management and something that in one form or another happens all over the working world.
I’m not saying that I agree with him or don’t agree with him because I don’t know; I don’t work in his department or live in his town. Maybe some of you will agree with his stance; maybe some of you won’t; maybe all of you will. But what struck me is that whether a manager is mostly right or mostly wrong on a given issue, standing up for what you believe in truly does take courage because it isn’t easy and there are often consequences. That’s what leadership is. You have to sometimes be unafraid to endanger yourself, so to speak, to fight for what you believe in. Ultimately, you have to be willing to lose to win.