Senior leaders spend most of their days solving problems and making decisions, the two critical functions that form the hinges of destiny. Each time you engage in either, you stand at a pivot—a turning point that will take you in directions that will contribute to your success or demise, and influence the lives of others.
Putting logic aside, too often we allow emotion to distract us as we settle for short-term emotional gains that often demand long-term payback. These ten kinds of decisions explain what makes a company flounder and founder:
1. Ostrich Decisions
Frequently senior leaders decide not to decide. With their heads firmly in the sand, they ignore all evidence that they should make a call—especially a tough call. Usually, in their opinion, making a change will involve more discomfort than denial.
Decisions—good, bad, or decent—get stuck in the entrails of the organization, much as flotsam and jetsam accumulate on an untended beach. Indecision, or an inability to choose among alternatives, creates bottlenecks and harms organizations in ways that the competition never could, causing the company to become the enemy within. Ostrich Decisions and Indecision differ in that the former involves an unwillingness to see alternatives, the latter an inability to choose among them.
3. Blinder Decisions
Equestrians use blinders and blinkers to keep their horses focused, encouraging them to pay attention instead of allowing distractions, but this approach doesn’t work for humans. Often leaders fashion their own blinders and blinkers. Some leaders have intuition that helps; others have biases that harm. Both create self-imposed blinders and blinkers.
4. Biased Decisions
All leaders have biases. Until and unless these leaders know how their biases influence their decisions, however, they will remain powerless to alter them. A sounding board, devil’s advocate, or team review can help a leader keep biases in check.
5. Opaque Decisions
No one except the decision-maker can figure out Opaque Decisions. Obscure and incomprehensible, these decisions often affect the lives of those who played no part in making them, causing confusion, resentment, and sometimes sabotage. People frequently support decisions they never agreed with, but they seldom do the same with ones they don’t understand.
6. Irrational Decisions
Unreasonable or illogical powers play a role in Irrational Decisions. Like their first-cousin counterparts, the Opaque Decision, Irrational Decisions often make no sense to any other than the decision-makers. Or, others understand the influences but just can’t believe an otherwise sane person would allow them to hold sway.
7. Safe Decisions
Never underestimate the appeal of the status quo. In addition to offering a safe haven from change, it assures security. Those who embrace Safe Decisions realize the pain of changing will likely surpass immediate gain—that is, the pain of change will occur in the present while gains will remain steadfastly in the future.
8. Desire-Based Decisions
On October 10, 1975 Liz Taylor married Richard Burton—for the second time, providing a clear example of Desire-Based Decisions. It was her sixth marriage and his third. The union, which the Vatican called “erotic vagrancy,” lasted ten months. Taylor and Burton would have done well to remember the words of British poet Samuel Johnson who called second marriages “The triumph of hope over experience.” The same can be said for other Desire-Based Decisions. Don’t let hope contradict the knowledge that experience has provided.
9. Cupidity Decisions
No one can have it all, but people who make decisions as though they can suffer the consequences of Cupidity Decisions. The winner can’t always take all, because those that lose, somehow find a way of paying back the avarice with some of their own.
10. Fear-Based Decisions
Most ineffective decisions have one thing in common: Fear drives them all—fear of loss of control, fear of criticism, fear of being discovered a fraud, fear of rejection. Fear acts as a flame accelerant that burns through all your good intentions and chars your ship right before it sinks it into oblivion.