“Star Trek: The Next Generation” fans have already recognized the catch phrase above that was so aptly used by Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Whenever Picard, as commanding officer, had made a decision he usually signaled that said decision had been made by speaking three simple words: “make it so.”
When deliberating over a proposal, leaders will often look to their “inner circles” for advice and input. That’s smart business. But after all of the input has been gathered, opinions have been expressed and alternatives have been weighed, true leaders understand that they have the ultimate responsibility to be the “deciders.” They don’t shirk this responsibility nor do they constantly “punt.” Leaders know that there will be risks associated with their most important decisions and that there will be pleasant surprises as well as unintended consequences associated with the choices they make.So why is it so hard for some leaders to get the ball rolling? I am fully supportive of due diligence and a period of thoughtful deliberation for big decisions. However, when projects remain on a “to do” list for seemingly eternal period of time with no decision being made, it can lead to less productivity and decreased motivation: two things that businesses cannot have.
Here are some of the most common excuses/stalling tactics that are used when delaying decisions on important matters:
It’s not the right time – guess what? The time may never be just right. In fact, the “right time” almost never comes because there are always forces beyond our control that come into play. Things happen. Don’t let anxiety about what might happen distract you from making a decision on something that should happen.
We have other things on our plate – if you are a business owner or an executive, there will always be other things on your plate. Your plate will never be empty…ever. When you find that your plate is full, prioritize what’s on it and make decisions accordingly.
Check with me in a few weeks – this is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. But the best leaders don’t usually say something like this more than once on any certain project. If a member of your team proposes something and has given you all of the data you need to make an informed decision, then you should make a decision one way or the other. This is especially true if you asked for the proposal in the first place! If, however, these talented and passionate folks are repeatedly put off, they will simply stop trying. And you know what they will be doing next, right? Looking for another job.
Continuing on the point above….executives will frequently ask vendors or service providers to submit a proposal for a project. Assuming that they have done so and have answered your questions, made modifications that you may have requested, and clarified what needed to be clarified, then is it really that unreasonable for the submitter to expect you to make a decision and to do so in a timely manner?
Unfortunately what happens sometimes is that the proposal is constantly shifted to the back burner. Or even worse, a decision is made to not do business with that vendor or service provider and the decider doesn’t have the courage or professional decency to let the submitter know. Instead, phone calls are ignored, e-mails aren’t answered, or the decider leaves instructions with their assistants to let certain people know that they are “in a meeting.” News flash: no one has that many meetings. You’re not fooling anyone. Speaking from the service-provider perspective, I assure you that most of us would rather hear “no thanks” as opposed to spending our time trying in vain to get in touch with you. We understand that certain decisions take time but our time is valuable too.
Star Wars fans will remember Yoda’s famous line, “Do or do not. There is no try.” I can’t say that I completely agree with the most literal reading of that line. It is acceptable to try – in fact, it should be encouraged. I think Yoda meant, “Do or do not. But make your choice!”
Wow – Star Trek and Star Wars in the same post. I guess I really am a nerd!