We’d all agree, as leaders, we are called upon to make decisions. The question I pose today is whether you over-analyze or over-think the situation and your options before you are comfortable deciding on a course of action?
Those of us who have perfectionist tendencies can easily over-analyze things. If you feel uncertain about selecting an option, guess what happens? You will stall in selecting an option.
Sometimes delaying your decision in order to get more information is the right thing to do. There are occasions, however, when stalling can actually reduce your alternatives to the point of only having one remaining course of action. And when you have only one option, you don’t really have any options.
Will all of your decisions be correct all of the time? Of course not–and I truly hope you don’t live under this delusion. It’s been said, “Experience is not the best teacher, evaluated experience is the best teacher.” Do you go back and evaluate the actual impact of the decisions you have made?
Decisions are easy when you know what you stand for. When faced with a decision, those whose values are clearly articulated use the values as a screening device. Decisions become easy where your action will remain true to your values or take you outside of them.
Also, when you have committed to a company strategic plan or yearly operating plan, decisions regarding implementation of actions or goals consistent with those plans are easier to make.
Making decisions usually requires taking action of some sort in order to move people, things, momentum or projects forward. If you are maintaining status quo, stalling to obtain more certainty or moving backward, you are likely making an ill-informed decision.
If your action to move forward is not correct, you can always adjust. Making adjustments is generally a lot easier when there is momentum, as opposed to starting from a dead stop. Think of the energy it takes for an airplane to begin its charge down the runway for takeoff. Usually the pilot begins from a dead stop as he or she awaits clearance from the control tower to proceed. It’s the same principle with making decisions.
Suppose the decision you are faced with is not clear, despite being within your values and within the strategic plan. Ask yourself some of the following questions:
- What would the best leader you know do in this situation? Think about this for a moment. Who is the best or most successful leader you know or know of? If you asked that person for a “mentoring” session and discussed the situation, what would they advise?
- Consult those in your inner circle. Hopefully, you have an inner circle with 4-5 people who share your values, can speak openly and honestly to and with you, have only your best interest in mind and are generally wise people. What have they said? Have you asked them, “What else should I be considering?” or “What questions am I not asking in this situation?”
- Think through possible outcomes of your decision. What are the pros and the cons? What would be the worst case and best case scenarios?
- What is the ideal or desired result you are looking for and what decision is required to achieve that result?
- If there were one additional piece of information that would completely clarify which alternative to select, what would that be and how difficult would it be to get it? What are the risks of waiting to obtain that information?
When you arrive at the decision point, you just have to do it! Stalling can be crippling and will impact the respect others have for you as a leader. As I said before, will you be correct all the time? Of course not, no one is or has ever been correct ALL the time, with the exception of the Lord Almighty! It’s OK to make mistakes and learn from them. But as a leader, it’s not OK to delay making a decision when you really do know what you should to do.
If any of the above questions has you wondering or searching, that’s great! Questions are designed to do that. Questions are the catalyst to help you think more deeply than you have ever thought before. Although you may not discover the answers right away, you will never figure out the best way forward if you are not willing to ask (or be asked) questions.