Tough Decisions

There are many characteristics that make a leader. One of the most important is good judgment, especially when making tough decisions. Poor decision making can make small problems big and cause big problems to become fatal.

The tendency of weak leaders is to put off decisions as long as possible. Sometimes it’s actually possible to put off a decision forever. Except it’s not really possible.

What weaker leaders don’t seem to understand is that not making a decision IS a decision. It’s a decision not to decide and that particular decision is almost always a bad decision.

Other leaders, even good leaders, want to wait to make a decision until they have as much information as possible to make a correct decision. That’s good thinking…except when it isn’t.

The very best leaders are prepared to make decisions even when they don’t have all the information they wish they had. They are prepared to make decisions even when the information they use to make those decisions changes every day.

They use past experience as reference points and their “gut instincts” to make the best decision possible at the time the decision needs to be made. They don’t only do that with small or easy decisions. In fact oftentimes they have to make the tough decisions, even the toughest decisions, without all the information they wish they had.

But Authentic Leaders make the decision anyway.

Authentic Leaders know that it’s easier to fix a wrong decision than it is to fix no decision. A real decision causes action to be taken and that action can be adjusted as many times as a fast changing situation may require. No decision is a decision to not take action and that inertia becomes more difficult to overcome the longer it persists.

It takes a ton more fuel to get a plane in the air than it does to keep it there. Changing course also requires far less energy than taking off. So it is with decisions too. Once you’ve made a real decision you’re in motion and motion begets motion.

Authentic Leaders make tough decisions. Many of them don’t enjoy having to do that but they make those decisions anyway. They know some of their decisions will be wrong but most of them, especially the big ones, will be right.

Don’t delay when it comes to making a decision. The moment you have enough information to make a decision make it. If you don’t have enough information to make a decision and a decision must still be made then make the decision.

Somewhere inside all of us is the ability to make good decisions. Authentic Leaders reach within themselves and bring that ability to the surface. That “reach” begins with a willingness to risk being wrong. It includes an understanding that a wrong decision gives a leader more control over a situation than no decision at all.

Don’t try to hide behind a “no decision,” take a risk of being wrong and make a tough decision, who knows, you may be right.

Real Decisions Require Action

Making decisions can be a challenge. Making real decisions is even more challenging. A real decision is one that brings about action. Real action.

Real action causes something to change. It may not change much for you but whatever change is caused by your actions sends a ripple effect to those around you. Hopefully you understand that. It means that your decisions and the actions that result from them don’t only affect you, they affect the people around you as well. Your actions can have a big impact on those closest to you.

If you understand that then you should know the reverse is also true. You will be affected by the decisions and actions of the people around you. The closer those people are to you the bigger the impact.

That’s why it’s so important that your decisions lead to action. It’s not really a decision if nothing different happens because of it. Without action nothing different will happen. For those of you who believe it’s sometimes best to not make a decision you should know that a decision to not decide IS a decision. It’s a decision to allow the decisions and actions of others to control and shape your life.

You can make a decision to “stand pat” or “sit tight” or whatever you want to call it but unless virtually ever other person in the world also does nothing then something is going to change for you.

The change may be small and it may take some time for you to realize the change happened but it will happen. The only question is do you want change to happen to you or because of you? Do you want to control the change in your life or are you willing to allow the change to control you?

You can decide whatever you want but if the decision isn’t followed up by some sort of action then you might as well not have decided at all.

You may be only one decision away from an entirely different life. You may be only one decision away from being able to maintain the life you have. Whichever is the case both require that your decisions include an action step.

The decisions that affect your life are being made ever day. You must decide if you want input into the effects of those decisions or you’re willing to let someone else choose your path.

Happiness requires some control over your life. That control can only come from deciding what you want and then taking action to make it happen. As we head into 2020 I don’t think I’m going to wish anyone a Happy New Year. I think I’ll wish people an Active New Year!

Vacuum Packed Decisions

Some decisions are easy to make. Some decisions are harder. Some decisions require a little information to make. Some decisions require a lot of information and some require a lot more than a lot. 

But every decision is a better decision when the information required to make the decision comes from multiple sources. Not all the information will be equally valuable. Some may even be worthless. But considering, if only for a moment, the value of information eventually deemed worthless makes for a more informed decision.

But some people in leadership positions disagree with that philosophy. They believe only their input is required. They believe they have enough experience, enough knowledge and good enough instincts that they don’t need additional viewpoints.

They are wrong. They are wrong even if the decision they made turns out to be right.

When people in leadership positions make decisions in a vacuum they demoralize their teams. They deny them the opportunity to learn how decisions are made. Their teams may begin to believe that vacuum packing decisions are the proper way to make decisions.

When people in leadership positions make decisions in a vacuum they deny themselves access to varying viewpoints and different life experiences. They lose all the experience that the members of their team bring to the organization.

When people in leadership positions make vacuum packed decisions they make poorer decisions. They hinder the growth of their organization and their people.

Authentic Leaders seek advice and consul from a wide variety of sources and people. They combine other people’s experience with their own and they have the courage to admit when someone else’s input makes more sense than their own.

Authentic Leaders make better decisions as a result. Even when the decision is wrong. The extra input and variety of viewpoints provide the Authentic Leader with fallback options when the initial decision goes off the rails.

A decision that provides the decision maker with additional options and alternatives is a great decision.

If you’re in a leadership position ask for input. It is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of courage and strength. And don’t ask for input only from those who think like you. Go after some far out thinking because if it does nothing else it will strengthen your confidence in the decision you ultimately make. But you never know, it may turn out that it’s not so far out after all, maybe it will help you make a much better decision than you otherwise would have.

Vacuums are good for cleaning up. They are not so good at helping someone make a decision. Unseal your brain and let some fresh ideas in now and then. The people affected by your decisions will thank you.

Change the Trajectory of Your Life

A little kid walks into a candy store with his dad and was amazed by the variety of treats to choose from.

 

“What should I choose? What should I choose? What should I choose?” He asked himself.

 

“Come on son, we don’t have all day,” his dad said.

 

“These are my favorites. No wait, these are my favorites.” He walked along the aisles, picking up bags and putting them back. He just couldn’t make up his mind.

 

“Come on son, make up your mind, we have to go,” his impatient dad said.

 

Frantically, the boy ran around the store, his eyes moving from one shelf to another, but all of the options looked so good and he couldn’t make a decision.

 

Eventually, the dad had enough, grabbed his son by the hand and they walked out of the store empty-handed. The young boy had tears in his eyes. He wanted them all, but ended up with nothing because he couldn’t choose just one.

 

At some point or another we have all been that little kid. The world we live in is that candy store and sadly, some people never do decide.

 

There are a ton of decisions to be made but if we don’t make a decision about our career, education, relationships, investments, church or other important issues, we end up empty-handed. 

 

Sometimes we worry about making the wrong choice so we just decide to delay the decision. Well, that delay is a decision. It’s a decision to not decide and that is almost always the wrong decision.

 

You are perhaps only one decision away from changing the entire trajectory of your life. If you’re not where you want to be it’s likely because of decisions you’ve made in the past or perhaps you’re where you are because of decisions you didn’t make. 

 

If you’ve hesitated to make that decision then that’s on you. It’s your life, you should be deciding as much as possible who and what is in it. 

 

Deciding isn’t all that hard. Making a decision however can be very challenging. What’s the difference you ask…well deciding is choosing to do something. Making a decision is actually doing it. 

 

No matter what you decide it’s not really a decision until you take action to make it happen. Good intentions are not a decision. 

 

Making a decision requires discipline. Discipline is best described as wanting something more tomorrow than the something you want today. Think of it like this: you want to weigh less tomorrow but you have ice cream in the freezer today. If your desire to weigh less is greater than your desire for ice cream then you’ll avoid the freezer. If not, well then enjoy the ice cream. 

 

Good decisions come from discipline. Bad decisions frequently come from a lack of discipline.


When you’re ready to change the trajectory of your life you’ll find the discipline you need to do it. Don’t just decide to do something, make the decision to actually do it. 


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. 

 

When It’s Time to Decide

Every decision that needs to be made will be made. No exceptions!

If you’re responsible to make a decision and you fail to make it somebody or something will make it for you. If you think “waiting” to make a decision is a good idea you must realize that “waiting” is the same as making a decision to not make a decision. That is almost always the wrong decision to make. 

You can fix a poor decision once it’s made because you maintain some control over the decision. Failure to decide causes you to lose much of the control you may have had over a poor decision.

The only way I know of to learn to make decisions is to make them. You’ll certainly make some bad ones along the way but even those will teach you how to make better ones next time.

You must learn to make decisions because if you’re a person in a leadership position and you do not have the ability to make decisions then you will not lead, you will be led. You will be led by the unkindest leader of all, time and circumstance.

Time and circumstance will make the decision for you. That’s why you must understand that not making a decision is a decision. Deadlines will go whooshing past while you stand there pondering your next decision. The decision will, for all practical purposes have been made. Time will have made it for you. 

Once that happens your circumstances will be decided for you instead of by you. You will either drive the decision-making process or you will be driven by it. 

The time to decide is the moment, the very moment, when you have all the facts and information necessary to make an informed decision. At that point any delay is simply procrastination and procrastination is like poison to effective decision-making.

Occasionally time will force you to make a decision without all the facts you would like to have. In those cases you’ll need to rely on your past experience, the advice of other knowledgeable people, history and often, your instincts. Just remember, use all the information and facts you DO have even if you don’t have all the information you wish you had. 

Successful people decide, to lead effectively you must make the decision to decide in every instance where decision is required. It might not be easy but it is leadership!