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It will happen. Someone will challenge your vision. Something will get in the way of progress. A cancer will develop and grow unless dealt with in the proper way. As a leader you will face opposition on your road to success. It isn’t fun, it isn’t easy, and it is always necessary. I once read, “To think that you are going to lead without making mistakes results in procrastination.” This in turn makes you simply ineffective.

So what do you do when you know you need to make the Hard Decision?

1.    Weigh your Options

What will be the fallout from this decision? Will it be positive or negative? Will people be angry even though it is the right call? Can you live with that? The best leadership advice someone told me was, “Choose you battles wisely.” Is this one worth fighting for?

“What is right isn’t always popular, what is popular isn’t always right.”

2.    Seek Counsel

Do you have a group of trusted advisors? Do you have someone you can bounce ideas off of or get advice from; someone who sees the bigger picture? You will not be able to see all angles yourself. There will come a time when you need to depend on other trusted friends who understand the Big Vision and endgame. This is a very important group because your leadership will succeed or fail based on the advice you receive. 

3.  Make decisions with the information you have now

Hindsight is always 20/20.  As a leader, you will never have 100% certainty that you have all information. You must act when you need to. You may be criticized later for not knowing certain information, but this can’t deter you from making a decision with the information you had at the time. You must do what you can with what you have at the time.

4.    Focus on the Future

Recently, two of my top athletes came to me and said they were only willing to make 3 practices a week accompanied with a short list of demands. These two athletes would guarantee victories for most dual meets. I had to make the Hard Decision. Character is more important than wins. I communicated to them my expectations about coming to practice everyday and putting their team first. They made the decision to not participate on the team this year. The Future consequences outweigh the immediate needs every time. The consequences will be a program full of athletes that respect and trust their leadership. These lessons will not only affect their sport but their future as adults.

5.    Own the Fallout

You will not be able to prepare for everything. Not making a decision is deciding to do nothing. This is leadership suicide. Don’t be afraid to fail. Make a decision, learn from it and become a better leader each choice you make. Own the consequences and take personal responsibility. Those you lead cannot be thrown under the bus because you listened to them. You are the leader and the final outcome of any decision is on you. 

Think like this:

Good outcome – your advisors get the credit.

Bad outcome – you take responsibility.

Regardless of the outcome (good or bad) your advisors, audience, followers, athletes, or employees will work hard for you because they feel safe in your leadership.

Decisions are at the heart of your leadership success. There will be times when the critical moment for a decision must be made and it can be difficult, nerve-racking, and accompanied with much anxiety. Great leaders balance emotion and anxiety with reason to make the best decision they can with what they have. They think about their employees, customers, athletes, and the future success of their program or organization.

Can you make the Hard Decision? When have you had to make the difficult choice? How did it turn out?