by Mike Sisco

Bite the head of a frog: a management model

Jul 13, 2018
IT LeadershipIT Skills

Unusual-sounding, yes, but an essential model for IT management principles.

2 check mundane hardware
Credit: Thinkstock

Many years ago, when I was doing research and planning the content of my new book, IT Management Models, I met an old colleague and friend for lunch. To collect notes and image ideas for the book, I carried a small journal with me dedicated to this project.

I showed him the journal and described the book that I planned to write. The journal had a single page with a crudely drawn image on it for each IT management model I planned to write about. At this point there were probably around 20 models.

Paul looked through the book and quickly said, “If you’re going to write a book like this, you need to include ‘Bite the Head of a Frog.’”

I had no idea what it was, so he explained. I decided right then that it belonged in the models book because the management principles are very appropriate for IT managers of the world. I drew a crude image of a frog on a new journal page and added a few notes. I have used this model myself ever since.

Since then I’ve delivered 80 IT Manager Institute classes and mention the “Bite the Head of a Frog” model to my students in every class. Just like my initial response, no one is familiar with it. Below is the IT management model, “Bite the Head of a Frog.”

Bite the Head of a Frog

Tough issues and decisions often get put off until a “better time” to deal with them. When you have a painful or difficult issue to deal with, make it a point to go into the office and deal with the issue early or at a specific time, i.e., do the distasteful deed proactively and get it out of the way.

You will find that it’s less stressful for you and has a positive impact on your productivity as you won’t be worried about the issue all day.

Take care of your most “distasteful” issue first and it clears the way for a better day.

Most of us have this thing called a “procrastination factor.” When we have a tough issue to deal with, we often put it off until the very last possible moment.

This burns up a tremendous amount of energy, creates a lot of stress and lowers our productivity quite a bit because we can’t stop thinking about the tough session we are about to have when we finally deal with our tough issue. There is a solution. Take care of your ugliest situation first thing in the day and get it out of the way.

Let me give you an example

I had a manager who reported to me one time who had a problem employee. He worked and struggled with the employee for several months to no avail. Finally, after placing the employee on a formal improvement program and still not seeing any improvement, it came down to the fact that he needed to terminate the employee.

The manager stressed about the issue quite a bit, especially on the day he planned to do the termination. He goes to get the employee toward the end of the day on a Friday to terminate his employment and guess what. The employee was already gone. This was one of the reasons he was about to be fired; we couldn’t keep him focused on his job.

My poor manager had to stress about this issue all weekend. On the following Monday, he takes care of the issue as soon as the problem employee arrived at work.

“Bite the Head of a Frog” certainly applies to situations like this one.

The bottom line is that waiting until the end of the day to deal with a distasteful issue doesn’t do anyone any good. You are wasting everyone’s time, even the problem employee’s time. You most likely don’t need this employee hanging around all day.

Plus the manager is stressing all day and not getting very much accomplished because his head is not in the game so to speak. He is thinking about the upcoming meeting and analyzing what to say and how it’s going to go. So, save everyone some grief and take care of the issue early in the day, i.e., “bite the head of a frog.”

Key points

  1. Deal with the “ugly” issues early and avoid procrastination: Once you are prepared, tackle your toughest issues early and avoid procrastinating. Putting it off doesn’t do anything but build up anxiety and cause you to lose focus on important issues of the day so handle the problem and move on.
  2. Address tough issues early in the day: Handling your toughest issues first thing will make you feel better that day. Think of it as “biting the head of the frog” being the worst thing you have to do that day. Go ahead, do it, and get past it so you can be productive the rest of the day.
  3. Evaluate consequences and prepare for the impact: Once you determine how you need to handle tough issues, it’s best to go ahead and handle it. Be sure to evaluate the downside and possible ramifications so you go in prepared. In many cases, the toughest part is the anxiety that builds leading up to when you actually deal with the issue. If you have prepared well, handling the issue won’t be as tough as you think.
  4. Plan for the event and get your act together: Do whatever it takes to prepare. Seek help from those with experience in such matters and develop a planned approach. If it’s a really tough employee or client issue, it’s worth the time to prepare.
  5. Approach the issue with a win-win perspective: Approach tough situations with a win-win attitude and seek a way for both you and the other party to find something positive with your solution. For example, if I have to fire someone for consistent unacceptable performance, I approach the issue in the perspective that I’m helping the employee move on to another career opportunity where he/she will be successful. It’s unfair for the company, my team, myself and especially the employee to allow him/her to continue working when he/she is not going to be successful.

You will find this model is helpful in both professional and personal life issues. Use it to break through your “procrastination factor,” and it will improve your situation.