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Every day leaders are confronted with a variety of decisions they have to make. Hopefully, your employees have been trained and are empowered to make many of the decisions that need to be made, but there will be those decisions that only you as the owner or manager can make. The most successful leaders will not postpone making those decisions. A study conducted by the Harvard Business School once asked “What are the top characteristics of high achievers?” The persons being asked gave a wide variety of answers, but the top response was the ability to act quickly. They recognized that leaders who can make quick decisions and act on those decisions were going to be the most successful in their fields. Those who procrastinate in making the tough decisions would enjoy much less success.
This does not mean that these quick decisions were always the correct ones. Sometimes these decisions were not the best that could have been made, and occasionally they were completely wrong. But, the decisions led to actions, and if the actions didn’t produce the desired results then new decisions could be made. In either case, the best solution would be discovered more quickly through not putting off making a tough decision.
These decisions were also not made without input. Leaders know to acquire as much information as possible before making an important decision, but not to delay that decision until they have every iota of information that might impact the decision. Leaders never have all the information they need, but they often can’t wait until that information is available before making a decision. If new information becomes available later that would lead to a different decision then the initial decision can be altered. I once sat in on a meeting when a question was raised about a decision that had been made by a board two years earlier. One person in the room reminded everyone in the room of the earlier decision when another person responded that decisions can be changed when new information became available. Few decisions should be written in stone. Especially in the times in which we now live, decisions made two years earlier should not be seen as Gospel. They may have been the right decision at the time, but as new information becomes available or things change, then those decisions need to be examined and changed if needed.
When leaders refuse to make necessary decisions they create doubt in the minds of their team members. These team members wonder who is running the organization and what will happen if their leaders become incapable of making important decisions. There is a great scene in one of the Pirates of the Caribbean films when, near the end of the movie, two pirate ships go on either side of a British ship and begin firing. Throughout the movie the commander of the British ship was arrogant in his leadership, but as these pirate ships made a maneuver he never expected he suddenly became frozen and incapable of responding. The subordinate officer kept demanding an order which never came until the subordinate office assumed control and ordered the men to abandon ship. The pirate ships kept firing on the British ship as the commander slowly walked across his ship until it finally blew up and sank taking the commander with it.
In business we will always have pirates firing at us. People will do things we never expected. New challenges will continually confront us. Some of these challenges will offer opportunities for our businesses to grow; others will threaten to sink us if we do not react quickly. In either case, decisions will have to be made, and you as the leader will be responsible for making them.