Everyone makes decisions throughout their life. Whether meaningful or insignificant – personal or professional – the decisions we make and actions we take are the building blocks of the life we are able to live. Unfortunately, many people restrict their decision-making abilities by over-researching an issue or situation keeping them solidly planted “where they are” rather than allowing themselves to move towards “where they could be.” New leaders often feel pressured to take action that results in change to prove their value. Good leaders typically research their alternatives before choosing the path that will most likely lead to success. Great leaders go one step farther by learning to anticipate unexpected results – always tempering their intentional actions with an understanding of potential risk – before making what appear to be “judgment calls” that culminate in good decisions.
Great leaders involve others in the decision-making process by leading them to a solution rather than pushing them to a conclusion, allowing them to see both the benefits and the potential pitfalls of any action taken. They allow others to make mistakes (from which they will ultimately grow) so they can initiate a successful resolution process rather than continually sheltering them from harm’s way. Involving the people needed for implementation in the decision-making process allows them to make better judgments in the future. Helping others make better decisions will minimize the number of critical calls we must make ourselves. When others are involved in the decision-making process, learning from both their successes and their failures, they gain the confidence to lead. It is important that we enhance and add to the experiences of those working with and for us so that they might be able to contribute (and be ready to take over when we are ready to move up) rather than “doing it all ourselves” and finding that nobody is capable of taking our place.
The key to making great decisions is maintaining “mental flexibility.” It is OK to change your mind if the conditions or situations driving your initial decision change. It is never wrong to act – it is wrong only to act without first considering all the ramifications involved with the actions you take OR by simply failing to act due to fear of the unknown. The only bad decision is one not made, and the only inexcusable action is one occurring unintentionally. Being unafraid to make a mistake from which you can ultimately learn is critical for our greatest rewards are often born through the painful experiences of our losses. Far too many people wish to receive results without taking risks – seek to enjoy the rewards offered by doing something differently without investing the effort needed to initiate change.
Those able to make great decisions seek that which is possible rather than settling for that which is probable. They tend to reach for what they dream rather than limiting themselves to what they can see – recognizing that dreams and imaginings are the precursors to great discoveries ONLY IF they are allowed to initiate action. They have learned that if consciously doing nothing provides a better result, it is more advantageous to temporarily hold back (until the situation or conditions change) than to foolishly rush forward. Before acting one should ask not only “what should be done” but also seek to determine “why” action should be taken – weighing the potential benefits of doing something against the repercussions of doing nothing. Do not EVER simply fail to take action, however, because unintended consequences often follow unintentional inaction.
Rarely will a truly exceptional leader step into a position of authority without having first performed many different jobs within an organization demonstrating a wide array of responsibilities and experiencing both success and failure YET many seek roles that would allow them to make decisions that might lead to success having no prior knowledge or experience. Great decisions cannot be made unless one first acquires the proper tools (training and/or experience) which would allow them to leave the “here and now” without fear of failure as they move towards what has yet to materialize as a new reality. We would not expect a business owner to “hit the ground running” without any knowledge of operations, administration, or marketing. We often expect newly appointed supervisors and managers, however, to lead without receiving any transitional tools or training to help them direct the work of others. We expect new parents to raise their children flawlessly without any previous experience or knowledge. We expect relationships to grow and blossom without experiencing the reality that another must come first (rather than last). Gaining life experience through watching, seeing and participating in a variety of different activities OR enrolling (and engaging in) training programs designed to enhance a skill set are critical parts of an effective decision-making process. Good decisions require experience-based judgment allowing us to “let go of what we have and who we are” so we can move from being “great doers” to being a leader who can accomplishes much through the intentional (guided but independent) efforts of others.