You Could be Wrong

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time you know that my first job in management came as quite a shock to me. I was a very good salesperson until one day I was pulled into the office and asked if I would be interested in jumping several levels of management to become the General Sales Manager. 

I wasn’t actually sure what the General Sales Manager did but I did know the job came with a new car, a huge office with a private bathroom and a whole lot more money. Lots and lots of money. 

So of course I said yes and the following Monday I was in charge of a large sales organization. I didn’t let the fact that I didn’t know what I was doing keep me from doing it. We were selling soda pop and I sold more than anybody. How tough could it be to make sure everyone else was selling all they could too.

To say I made a few mistakes would be a rather large understatement. The worst part was everyone but me could see the mistakes coming from a mile away. I might have been a little too proud to ask the more experienced people for help but eventually I made the sales organization more of a democracy so others could share their ideas. But I made the final call because I was the boss and that’s what bosses do. 

Shortly after I was promoted I faced the biggest decision I would ever make in my new role. There were two major convenience store chains in the city where I was working. Vendors in both of those chains paid for the best shelf space. I only had the budget to purchase “eye level”  cooler space in one of the chains. The chains appeared to be about the same to me so I very strategically picked the chain with a location closest to my house. 

We would still have shelf space in the other chain’s stores but it would be “bottom shelf. ” Customers would have to look long and hard to find our products. 

My decision looked good for a few weeks. A few weeks. Just 3 weeks after making the agreement with one convenience chain it was acquired by the chain I decided not to make an agreement with. 

The chain that did the acquiring tossed all the vendor contracts from the chain they acquired. That meant in every major convenience store in a large metropolitan area, my products were now all bottom shelf. 

I was pretty lucky that my boss didn’t think that disaster was my fault. He chalked it up to bad luck and we agreed there was no way I could have seen that coming. But to this day I suspect I could have seen it coming. I know for a fact I should have seen it coming. 

I managed to mitigate much of the damage with some new sales programs and by out hustling the competition. I also learned a ton about making decisions, making mistakes, and “fixing” poor decisions. 

But what I learned most of all is to accept the fact that I could be wrong. About almost anything. That meant that people I disagreed with could be right. About almost anything. 

Authentic Leaders must make confident decisions based on the facts they have available. They must also be open to discover new facts that become available and have the courage to change a decision based on the new information. 

Leaders who cannot accept that one of their decisions may need to be changed are very limited leaders. Leaders who refuse to accept that they could be wrong have no ability to learn from their mistakes. Leaders who believe that accepting responsibility for a poor decision is a weakness will never fully have the trust of their people. 

Leaders who do not have the trust of their people are leaders in name only. For anyone hoping to truly lead making a mistake need not be fatal, refusing to admit that mistake most often is. 

A Different and Better Year Ahead?

If you randomly ask 100 people if they would like 2018 to be “better” most everyone would say yes. When you ask them what they are going to do to ensure that it is indeed better you’ll likely get just as vague an answer as the question you asked. 

 

The problem with the question of course is that “better” can be defined in literally millions of ways. Better to one person might be less rain in 2018 but if your a farmer in a drought stricken area less rain would be the exact opposite of “better.” 

 

The more specific you are in stating exactly what “better” looks and feels like the greater your chances of actually having a better 2018.

 

Setting goals for yourself in 2018 can most certainly help, making resolutions almost certainly won’t. But whether you have goal or resolutions heading into the new year your best chance of having a better 2018 is simply to make better choices and decisions.

 

You likely have far more choices than you realize and you have a ton more control over the circumstances of your life than you think. If fact, if you’re like most people you don’t actually consider just how much of your life you can change just by changing the choices you make. 

 

You choose your friends… do you ever consider that? Do you complain about one friend to another? I suppose everyone does that once in a while but if you are consistently complaining about one or two people in your life then you should be asking yourself why you are allowing them to be part of your life. 

 

The most successful people do not complain about things they have control over, they just choose to change them. You get to choose your friends and you get to choose most of the people who are a part of your life. 

 

You are basically the compilation of the five or ten people you spend the most time with. That means one of the fastest ways to change your life is to change the people you hang out with. 

 

That’s not always easy, in fact it’s frequently hard, but it is worth considering and then doing if you want to be in control of your life. 

 

Another choice most people seldom consider is their thoughts. You DO choose what to think in any given circumstance. You can look for the good or the bad in most any situation and more often than not, you’ll find what you’re looking for. 

 

Your thoughts play a major role in controlling your life because your thoughts almost always are reflected in your actions (even if you believe you can hide your thoughts from other people) and it’s your actions that people pay attention to. Always remember, people believe some of what you say but they believe everything that they see you do. 

 

I’d encourage you to pick one day, one single day is all you’ll likely need, pick a day and consider for just a second or two why you thought what you just thought. Where did that thought come from? Before you do something pause for just two or three seconds and ask yourself why you’re doing it. 

 

It will likely take far less than a day for you to realize how many choices you actually make without considering how much those choices will impact your life.

 

Sooner or later we all sit down at the table of consequences. Whether what you eat at that table is sweet or bitter is the result of hundreds of choices you make each day, many without even realizing it was a choice. 

 

Once you realize how many choices you actually make in a day, many without even thinking, you’ll have a chance at making better choices. Better choices lead to a better life. 


So what exactly does “better”mean? Well that’s just another choice that you get to make for yourself.


How to Make a Decision-Maker

I remember when George W. Bush was President he made a comment (I don’t recall the context) that he was the “decider.” He was laughed at and made fun of because of that statement. I really never understood why… I still don’t.

The ability to decide is a fundamental requirement of effective leadership. If you don’t have the ability to make a decision then you don’t have the ability to lead. In the absence of decisions leadership flounders and dies. Now, for those of you who want to put the qualifier “good” before the word decision you go right ahead. 

The reality is, you should be just as concerned with a lack of ability to make any decisions as you are about poor or bad decisions. Just as many organizations and businesses have failed because of no decisions as have failed because of poor decisions. It just might take a little longer. 

If you’re a leader who is interested in the development of the leaders who will follow you then helping them discover their ability to make decisions should be a major focus area for YOU. 

Help them to understand the difference between a “satisficing” decision and a maximized decision. Satisficing is an approach to decision-making that prioritizes an adequate solution over the optimal solution that comes from a maximized decision. While a maximized decision is always preferable sometimes time constraints and a lack of access to complete information will require a leader to go with an adequate solution. 

A maximized decision requires that you know and understand every option. They require considerably more time and energy and still, a maximizer decision-maker often has doubts about their decision because they find it hard to ever be truly certain.

Share with your future leaders where you find your information when making a decision. As you consider your sources you’ll likely find that a great many of your decisions are in fact satisficing decisions. 

You get as much information as you can and you combine it with your experience and instincts and you decide. That is what a decider does, they decide! Your future leaders have experience and instincts too and a lot of that came from you so how bad a decision can they make?

It’s never good to hold your people to a standard that you don’t hold yourself to. If you’re largely a satisficing decision-maker then don’t expect your people to always be maximizer decision-makers. They won’t be perfect decision makers, they will just be like you.

If you’re building tomorrow’s leaders then you must let them decide today. Start small, they don’t need to begin with million dollar decisions but they do need to begin. In order for your future leaders to begin you must stop. Stop deciding for them. 

Once you allow them to decide then you must stop second guessing their decisions. You can coach, you can gently suggest but you can’t overrule. Even if you believe they are wrong. Perhaps one of the best things to do when allowing others to make decisions that you have made in the past is to consider the very first principle from Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The principle says, “Don’t condemn, criticize or complain.” 

One of the very best ways to learn to make decisions is simply to make them and then study the outcome. If the outcome was less than desirable then adjust the decision and study the results again. Some outcomes will be good, some will be bad, some may be worse than bad. If the person making the decisions is truly a leader they may learn more from a poor decision than they learn from a good one.

YES, I understand a poor decision can bring with it financial consequences. I’d simply encourage you to consider any negative financial consequences to be an investment in your future leaders…they are after all the future that you’re creating.