Is indecision killing your execution?
In my last post, I brought up the idea that strategic execution is essentially a decision-making science. This week, I want to go down the rabbit hole a bit more.
And talk about the exact opposite of good decision-making: indecision.
Why isn’t bad decision-making the opposite of good decision-making? Let me (very briefly) offer three reasons.
- No decision is worse than making a bad decision because bad decisions can usually be corrected. Analysis paralysis is literally poison to our execution.
- No decision delays the experience of impact. Without the feedback that impact provides, we cannot assess if the decision is helpful or not. (side note: even bad decisions can teach us…)
- Decision-making is a trainable skill that can be improved. Indecision is not a lack of skill; it’s usually the sign of something far more sinister.
Which leads me back to this particular diatribe.
When we are wracked with indecision, the root cause issue is more about fear than skill. We are trying to avoid failure/rejection/risk instead of getting the strategy executed.
I am a self-professed Type A personality. Correction – recovering Type A personality. I can make decisions on a dime. I can pick the restaurant/pick Option B/pick the root cause issue with relative comfort. And if I’m wrong, I am confident that I can figure out what to do to get things back on track.
Until I become afraid.
Usually, it’s the fear of failure that gets me in these moments, but the fear of rejection can be equally paralyzing.
I allow my fear of making the wrong decision hijack my overall decision-making capacity.
I research. And research. And research.
And justify my lack of decision-making the entire way.
Why the personal transparency?
I am seeing entire organizations becoming paralyzed with indecision. They won’t decide to prioritize. They won’t decide to re-allocate resources. They won’t decide if they need help.
It’s as if the entire organization is stuck in a collective inhale, holding everything in and waiting for permission to exhale – then do something.
Frankly, it’s getting to the point where indecision is affecting everything. From budget assignment to vendor spend to even determining next steps.
In other words, as my colleague Steve Thompson says, “The decisions that your people are making reveal your real strategy.” I would also include the decisions that people are NOT making.
If you are seeing the same thing(s) that I am, we do have a path forward.
First, make sure the indecision is not caused by a leadership gap (especially if YOU’RE the leader). While there are many solutions here, the first two suggestions I offer are relatively simple – and worthy of their own separate diatribes.
- Increase clarity to the point where everyone knows what success looks like and what the associated roles are (and are not). Seriously, this act alone can massively improve decision-making.
- Increase empowerment to the point where people have what they need to achieve success – and therefore make decisions that are aligned with the use of those assets. Adding empowerment on top of clarity is a one-two punch to indecision.
Leadership is about serving, yeah? So seek for ways to serve by injecting clarity and empowerment whenever possible so that indecision is getting the treatment that it deserves.
Second, make sure the indecision is not caused by an over-emphasis on the three most common hijackers of our effectiveness: success, significance, and control. As I have repeatedly said in this blog, they do not provide the power and fuel that we often think they do. Instead, invest in these three convictions in yourself and in your team.
- Confidence… the conviction that I am doing my best and that my best is all that I can do. When I am confident, I won’t be afraid to make a decision because the decision is just a part of my overall effort. The decision is not the only definition of my effort.
- Acceptance… the conviction that I am good enough and that I have inherent value. When I accept myself, I won’t be afraid to make a decision because the decision does not define who I am. I am much more valuable than a decision.
- Trust… the conviction that the journey itself is full of highs and lows that will ultimately take me to a good place. When I trust the journey, I won’t be afraid to make a decision because the decision is not the journey itself. Good or bad, the journey will “work” and I will become a better version of myself in the process.
These convictions become the foundation for a mindset that we must all have. This mindset provides the true power and fuel we need as leaders, and the power and fuel that our people need to be the best versions of themselves. When this mindset is in place, I have seen indecision shrink to the point of virtual non-existence. And only reappear when confidence, acceptance, and trust are assaulted.
Mirror moment: How is indecision affecting you and your team? And what can you do about it?
I mua. Onward and upward.
(And a special nod to Angela Hughes for sparking this thought stream with her comment on LinkedIn. Thank you!)
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