Confusion and insecurity have ruined many a life, a relationship and organization. Lee Iacocca, the famous CEO who saved Chrysler from ruin back in the 80’s, after receiving loan guarantees from the US Government said, “The most important skill of a leader is decisiveness.” We could debate the merit of Mr. Iacocca’s quote but I believe we can agree – failing to make decisions will bury an individual, a team or an organization. In the late 90’s, I was Director of Sales at an information technology company. The newly appointed president displayed an uncanny ability to avoid making any decisions. No matter how hard we prodded, cajoled, requested, and begged for decisions, he just refused to budge due to an unhealthy fear of making a mistake. To avoid mistakes he simply refused to make decisions; not realizing he was in fact making decisions by omission.
I remember having a particularly frustrating lunch meeting with him in June of that fateful year. I wrote a short business plan that included market analysis, customer buying patterns, availability of technical talent within the company and sales opportunities in the pipeline. My prediction: we needed to make some immediate decisions to get ahead of a negative trend in sales, service and employee disengagement. I was told I was overreacting. By November, our revenue had dropped 75-80%, 70% of the systems engineers had taken new jobs and still no decisions were imminent. Finally the president made a decision – he fired the Director of Sales. Yes, that would be me! He was removed less than 60 days later.
Indecisiveness from a fear of making a mistake is a self-inflicted disease leaders can not afford. However, just like this President, if this limitation can not be overcome the organization will fail. In the face of such an extreme example, it would have been better to do ANYTHING rather than doing nothing. We have to be careful as leaders not to fall prey to this silent disease of indecisiveness. At least if a poor decision is made, and one is quick to make decisions, the next quick decision can correct it. Is it possible to go too far by making decisions too quickly? Of course, but that is an entirely different topic for another day!
Have you been your own worst enemy when it comes to making decisions? Do you procrastinate decisions out of a fear of being wrong? The only way to truly find out if the decision is right or wrong is to MAKE IT!! Then adjust as needed.
To help you overcome indecisiveness, consider following Step 1 of The 7 Steps of Intentional Leadership and write a Personal Mission Statement. Knowing what is most important to you, what you stand for, and having guiding principles to remind you of these will help you make better, and more timely decisions.
No matter your mission: a good life, successful marriage, raising your children well, effective communication or a win/win mentality can make your life and the lives of those around you of great value to each other. Decision paralysis be gone!
To help you get started on this valuable life journey, I recommend www.franklincovery.com/msb. It’s easy and the cost is right – free. I look forward hearing from you about those decisions you find easier to make!