tough decisionsI often wonder why people (especially leaders) struggle in making decisions.  Even the smallest or minute decisions seem to derail some people.  These are people who hold key positions within an organization, hired to drive results, and advance the organization.  Like many of you, my career has been filled with leaders who will not make timely decisions.  In fact, one of the most common methods is to ignore or put off the request for a decision. This has caused great frustration over the years.  A leader’s inability to make decisions cost jobs and profits.  It creates embarrassment and the inability to attract and retain excellent talent.  So why do many leaders struggle making decisions?  I spent some time thinking about this over the last few days and concluded it comes down to this

The decision we make today will affect the outcome of tomorrow. So if I don’t make a decision, I am not responsible for the outcome.

That’s it!  People don’t want to be responsible for the outcome of their two roadsactions.  They fear their decision will be wrong or make people mad.  You see, many leaders see their position as a popularity contest.  So when unpopular decisions must be made, I’ve seen many leaders delay or ignore the situation in order to maintain their popularity. Eventually these decisions must be made and many communicate them through other leaders or sources.  General Colin Powell said, “Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity. You’ll avoid the tough decisions, you’ll avoid confronting people who need to be confronted, and you’ll avoid offering different rewards based on different performance because some people might get upset.”  

My career has been littered with many mediocre and bad leaders.  All have one thing in common.  They wanted people to like them and were willing to postpone and avoid tough decisions and hard conversations to ensure the relationship remained intact.  The great financier and Oklahoma State University Booster and COWBOY FOOTBALL supporter, T. Boone Pickens once cautioned: Don’t fall victim to what I call the ‘ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome. You must be willing to fire.” Make a decision and act on it. That is what GOOD leaders do!

How does one make decisions?  How do you get the courage to make those tough choices and decisions even if they won’t be popular?   Here is a four-step process for making choices and decisions.

  1. READY, FIRE, AIM – If you follow my post or have ever read my blogs, this phrase should be familiar to you.  My philosophy is a wrong decision is better than no decision!  At least I made a decision.  I understand the responsibility to deliberate and become educated on the information or situation.  However, I believe instinct and intuition (my gut feeling) are very good indicators of what I must do.  Most times, the information has been available to us for many days or weeks prior to the choice and decision having to be made.  We know what is right and what must be done.  The great leaders act with limited information.
  2. BE CONFIDENT – I heard John Maxwell say, “Don’t waste time and energy second-guessing yourself.” Leaders must not look back on the decisions.  They must be confident in their decision and move on, regardless of the outcome.  I simply make the decision and move on.
  3. REMEMBER LEADERSHIP IS NOT A POPULARITY CONTEST – Leadership is not about friendships, but rather RELATIONSHIPS!  Our position of leader requires us to build relationships in order to create trust and ultimately influence for performance.  Friendships cause us to make decisions based on our desired friendship outcome.  We tend to allow friends to get away with more and we are less likely to have those difficult conversations.  Relationships allow us to be open and honest and create an atmosphere to make those difficult choices and decisions. Colin Powell said, “Sometimes leadership means pissing people off.”  I believe I have to make the right decision even if it is unpopular.
  4. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH HUMILITY – Be responsible for your choices and decisions.  You’re the leader and you made the decision based on the information available at the time and on your instincts and intuition.  You are a leader because of your passion.  “Once you have a burning desire and you live in purpose with that desire, decisions come quickly and easily and seldom if ever will you change your mind.” ~ Napoleon Hill.  However, if the decision or choice didn’t work out as planned, there will be grace for the humble leader.  I heard it said once, “With pride, there are many curses. With humility, there come many blessings.”

choicesMaking even the smallest and inconsequential of decisions can seem difficult.  However, I’ve found following these four steps simplifies the process.  I can’t tell you that every decision will be the right one.  But I can tell you that your employees and the people that follow you will respect you for simply making a decision.  All leaders must make decisions.  However, effective leaders, the one’s that have success and influence others, make decisions quick and with bold confidence.

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