Owners and executives regularly face options and choices and they have to decide among them. Of all the obligations of leadership, making decisions is the most critical, yet it’s the one most often performed poorly.
They waffle, delay, ask for more information, invent excuses why now is not the right time or stop considering the choices at all. Not making a decision is a decision too, although they don’t think of it like that.
I’ve been working with business leaders on decision-making for many years. Sometimes I think if I hear “it’s not the right time” one more time I’m going to scream. I don’t scream, but I do say that the time is always right to decide to improve your business. Not next month or next quarter or next year. NOW.
This is especially true when you’re considering improvements to a company that’s doing well now. Why rock the boat? Because doing is well isn’t the same as maximizing your outcomes. When you think in terms of maximizing, you set a course for continuous improvement. Maximizing this year becomes the foundation for new choices the following year.
Conversations with clients usually reveal that not making decisions is almost entirely due to personal discomfort, even if the reasons are cloaked in business dress. Here are several:
- I made a bad decision once years ago and I don’t ever want to live through that kind of experience again.
- I can’t manage my schedule or attention or personal space as it is, how am I going to manage it with this new thing added?
- I prefer the devil I know to the devil I don’t.
- Even though we have plenty of money in the business, I don’t have confidence that that there will be enough after I spend what it will cost me to implement this decision.
- I have big goals this quarter and that decision could interrupt my pursuit of these near term goals.
- I am comfortable now and don’t want to rock the boat.
- I don’t have the money now and I’m afraid I’ll never have the money.
- I don’t want to risk making the wrong choice.
Most of these leaders would take action if a situation became urgent, but they postpone and delay when the situation is important. This is backwards!
If you take action when something is important—let’s say, accelerating profitable revenue growth—you will never face a time when the situation becomes urgent. You are in a very strong position to act on revenue growth initiatives when you have plenty of revenue. That’s the time to experiment, to go in new directions, to reach for new markets and clients. When your revenue is stagnant and you’re afraid you can’t pay the bills, anything new you do comes from weakness. Why in the world would that be preferable?
Executives, owners and leaders of all stripes seem to forget that decision-making is the most important part of their job. It’s not incidental, or off on a tangent, it is the essential obligation of leadership.