On Dependencies

There are two types of dependencies that I know of — professional and personal. And for the most part, I believe having dependencies is neither productive nor a legit status at all times.

Yes, of course, there will be exceptions! There’s always one. But if you’re reading this and worried about a project that’s stuck because you’re dependant on something to happen or someone to take action, chances are you’re at fault.

For example, if I’m dependent or waiting for someone else to take action since last week, it’s about time I follow up today to get clarity on the next steps for that particular project. That’s progress. Not by much but you’re sure to have the ball in your court much sooner that you would’ve if you’d just waited. And there will still be days when you get a “outside the influence” scenario. This mostly pertains to external service providers/vendors. I get it. But if that’s the case, can your organization afford to have a single solution provider to something that major to your business? So, you would hire another vendor and get things done.

Yes, you’re adding to the overall cost but would your business be okay without this backup? If yes, then you know exactly who’s using ‘dependencies’ as an excuse to not get things done. If not, you need to invest this money or see performance crashing through the floor.

When it comes to professional dependencies, you don’t have much wiggle room to take action yourself. But choosing to follow-up and investigate to get the ball rolling is one great leverage you have because you care more about getting things done. It’s a productivity mindset that’ll put you far ahead in the league of overachievers. Literally.

On the personal front, including passion projects, I believe having dependencies is an excuse for not getting things done. It’s what we use to procrastinate because it’s either not convenient or we’re scared to face reality. And I always encourage people to face the truth and explore the “why” behind whatever you’re doing. If that’s clear then you need to get better at making decisions. How? By reflecting on these questions:

  1. What is making me wait for this person/event to happen?
  2. What will happen if there’s simply no action/progress/momentum from the other end?
  3. How will it impact my project and would I be okay with it?
  4. How hard would it be to do this by myself?
  5. What skills would I end up learning if I do this myself?

Answering these questions will give you greater clarity on whether your dependency is legit or you’re using circumstances as an excuse for not getting things done.

Here’s an example I can share from my own experience. I’m an occasional procrastinator (because as some of you already know, I’ve got loads to do… but that’s an excuse nonetheless) but I recently hit a wall with a personal project I’m working on — my podcast. The plan was to invite at least 6 guests and get things rolling. I got 6 “yeses” from all my friends but still haven’t been able to nail down on that first casual call where I brief them about the podcast style, expectation and recording date. It’ll just take 5 minutes to do this.

There’s a possibility that I might nail down at least one this afternoon but that’s left to be seen. Also, I’m dependent on the other 5 folks to give me a ‘yes’ and narrow down on the date before I can hope I have at least 6 recordings to show for and publish. My gut says it’s going to take a long time. The alternative? Solo podcasting. It’s something I am intimidated by but I know it’ll be great over the long haul with me learning a lot about audio production, public speaking (much more than I already know) and build a deeper connection with my audience (much more than I ever can with the interviews-only format). So, in just about a week’s time my podcast format has changed from interviews-only to solo to solo with occasional interviews. The third option felt a bit more flexible as I really would like to bring people on board and interview them. It’ll help me and my audience learn a lot and gain a new perspective on the topic that I’m most interested in — organisational leadership and culture.

So, essentially while a dependency can be a real deal what you do about it is absolutely in your control. I think it’s a chance to do a reality check by following up and investigating with your dependencies or exploring what’s not making you leverage your choices, which could be an indication that you’re misusing the situation to procrastinate instead of resolving it. The choice and the loss is purely yours. What are you going to do?

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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