Leadership: The Art of the Delayed Announcement

For years I covered politics in the eastern region of Ottawa as a political stringer for The Ottawa Citizen. I covered the election of Liberal MP John Manley who went on to become Deputy Prime Minister. I have since covered various political realms over the years for various newspapers.

I have also worked for decades in positions of leadership in the IT industry, the tourism industry and others.

Throughout this time and in these varied roles there has been one (of many) constants – leaders and organizations like to prematurely announce things.

Phrases like “just around the corner”, “we’re working on the last details”, and “I cannot say anything now but soon you’ll know…” etc.

In many cases these pre-announcements have to do with industrial or commercial development. The next big thing that creates insane exctiement.

Then, as you wait with bated breath days go by, then weeks, then months, then years and finally you realize it is never going to happen. Excuses run like water after the spring melt –

“Well they just about signed the deal when they were acquired by a larger company who walked away.”

“Oh their financing fell through.”

“It’s still in the works, just getting a few unforeseen details out of the way.”

Most often the response is silence and a strong hope people will forget.

The delayed announcement is not always what it appears to be. Often it appears to be the result of incompetence but there can be shrewder reasons behind it. Many times the announcement is meant to calm an eager populace or put off a results seeking council, manager or board. Quite often these announcements and “leaks” are simply meant to lend the appearance that “a lot of working is happening behind the scenes – just be patient.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have encountered organizations whose hopper is overflowing with opportunity but never convert to a single deal. Years of incredible promise with almost little to nothing to show.

It is like the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes. The leader parades around the community completely naked while being convinced he/she is covered in the most amazing and rich fabrics because his councillors and advisors have duped her/him.

Here is what I have learned – until the contract has a signature an announcement is nothing but hot air. Until the foundation is being poured and the tenant is occupying the space assume no one is actually moving in.

Public announcements, promises by staff and management to leadership of things to come – none of it is worth a cent.

Do not be fooled by constant announcements followed by reasonable excuses. They are simply designed to keep you docile and leave you with the impression that “hard work is happening behind the scenes” etc.

As a challenge look back over the past 10 years of your organization, department, community, or whatever and sift through all the promises and count the actual finsihed, successful results. For every 100 promises of that new business, or this new services etc. you would be lucky to find one that became a reality.

At the end of the day it is results that matter…everything else is air.

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