You made a wrong choice. It happens, but why did it happen to you? Leaders are forced to make many decisions throughout the day. Some are necessary; others can wait. This is how you avoid making bad choices
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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?
“To be or not to be? That is the question.”
– Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1
How do you identify yourself? By who you are or by what you do? My sense is that on your tombstone one day it will not read: “Here Lies A Waste Management Specialist” or fill in the job title. Unfortunately, we begin most relationships by asking, “What do you do?” Why is that?
“Hi my name is JT. What’s your name? It’s nice to meet you. So, what do you do?”
This simple and very common conversation starter is saying a lot. We are making inferences about their identity based on what they do not by who they are. A true, authentic relationship cares very little about what a person does.
What is valuable is who the person is.
Think of it like this:
What they do may reveal:
(Caution - most of us are guilty of making these big assumptions)
- How much influence they have
- How much power they have
- How important they are
- How much money they make
- How how happy they are
- What kind of house and neighborhood they can afford
- What school their kids go to and how smart they will be
- What kind of parents they are (because of money and house size)
- What kind of college and eventual job the kids will have
- Start at the beginning and repeat cycle
We also begin thinking about how they can provide a service for me. What they do for work may benefit me in some way.
Of course we would never consciously think of all this. This is where we all need to be honest and begin asking, “Why don’t we ask who they are rather than what they do?”
I have a “To be” list. This list is a small list of who I am.
What we do flows out of who we are.
I challenge you to make a “To be” list. Begin to understand who you are before you begin identifying yourself by what you do. This list is in order of priority.
Make your own “to be” list. Now make a list of what you do. Compare both lists and see if what you do is a reflection of who you are. Chances are that the decisions you make are a reflection of how you see your identity at that moment.
Bad decisions happen when you mix up the order of your “to be” list and begin putting “do” items on your “be” list.
Depression and lack of confidence can result from identifying ourselves by what we do. This will never be good enough. In contrast, if you want to be a great friend, encourage and remind someone how he or she is doing within his or her true identity.
“You are a wonderful and affectionate mother.”
“You are a good son.”
“You are a mature Christian.”
“You are a kind-hearted mentor.”
“You are a loyal friend.”
“You are a caring co-worker.”
“You are not your job, you're not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You're not the contents of your wallet. You are not your khakis.”
– Chuck Palahniuk Fight Club