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When Leaders Don’t Make A Decision

For leaders, decision-making is a blessing and a curse. The power to make decisions is admittedly nice, while the responsibility of decisions can be weighty.

Some make snap decisions to move on to the next item on their plate, but don’t put in the thought to ensure the decision produces a good outcome.

Others labor over the decision trying to get all of the information needed to make the perfect and all-encompassing decision.

Which route is the best decision path?


Making snap decisions can consistently result in issues and difficulties that will lose your team’s trust faster than your next decision.

Hesitation, or perfectionism, in decision-making ensures it will not only tear down trust, but will also cause additional problems.

Those additional problems include (but are definitely not limited to):

  • So much time has passed that the decision is no longer applicable to the situation

  • Dwindling team trust means successful implementation of the decision is not likely

  • Multiple new issues have arisen due to not making the initial decision that requires more decisions to be made to address what was initially not addressed

Here’s a fact of life: we can never know everything needed to make the perfect decision because no one is perfect and no situation can be fully known.

Taking lengths of time to get 100% of the facts before making a perfect decision will guarantee that you will never be able to make a good decision.

Here are four ways to battle hesitancy in decision-making and make good decisions:

  • Identify a timeline: When presented with the need to make a decision, first figure out the timeframe in which the decision is needed - and move accordingly. If the decision is needed right now because a customer is at the counter, for example, dig into your system, get on the phone, walk around, and get as much information as possible in that moment.

  • Dig accurately: Know your systems well enough to know where to look and who to ask for information. If you don’t know what information is available to you, find someone who does and learn from their expertise. A key to learning is writing it down for future use so you don’t have to ask the same people the same questions.

  • Find a sounding board or two: Know when you have enough information to make a decision. And then make it. The battle is now half over - being able to articulate the decision is the clincher. Use someone who understands the question and knows enough of the system as a sounding board to provide real-time feedback - this is invaluable in the decision-making process. This is the final check before you launch the decision into the world. It can be scary to let a decision be known so give it a dry run first. Who said being a leader was easy?

  • Be willing to experiment: Sometimes the timeline required to make a decision does not allow for enough facts to be gleaned to make a “good enough” decision. When this happens, it is almost always better to make a decision than not at all. Why, you may ask? Because it is better to fall forward than to choose to be stagnant or paralyzed. Be willing to say something like, “we don’t have access to all of the necessary components to know the best decision at this time, as such we will move forward with “Decision A” with the understanding that we may need to adjust at some point in the future.” Thoughtful experimentation in decision-making is how better decisions are made in the future.

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