One of the more prevalent issues that I encounter in working with a coaching client … individual or team … is an inability or unwillingness to make a decision. I’m not talking about something as potentially earth-shaking as ‘should I leave my job?’ or ‘should I change my field of work?’ I’m referring often to the most basic decisions that one needs to make to move forward with the task at hand for themselves or as a leader of others.
John Sammarco of Creative Business Decisions has summarized the reasons and the impact of being unable to make a decision. They fall into any of several categories. These are …
- Being unable to commit: This can be because they see no great option or are fearful of making the wrong choice
- Acknowledging that you just don’t know how: Making decisions is a process we go through that eventually leads us to making the best and hopefully right decision. And this is a learned talent perfected by practice and the related growth
- Being overwhelmed: Identifying and evaluating options is something that decision making entails. Breaking down the components of the decision to be made makes it clearer and manageable. If we simply view the decision in its’ entirely it appears very large and somewhat unmanageable. This overwhelmed is the result.
- Remaining objective in decision making: There are times when the ultimate decision that is or needs to be made impacts us personally and thus play with our need to be impartial. Giving into our own bias can easily distort our decision and results in flaws.
- Pure Exhaustion from the process of making the right decision: It has involved such intense exploration and research then when finally at the point of making the decision all of the starch is gone and thus no decision is made.
Okay … so it’s pretty easy to understand how being stymied in the decision making process is anything but ideal. And what makes it very worthy of thinking about as it relates to us individually is various impacts that this ‘handicap’ can have on others.
- Significant impact on the productivity of our own or those we lead and the related costs of stagnation and/or wasted time
- Greatly impacts morale of others and with this the creation of a depressed environment
- Results in stagnation of the progress expected and anticipated and this brings with it a downturn in morale and effort
- Appearing to be partial to one idea over another creates a perception of bias and favoritism and who wants to participate in an environment wherein they don’t feel as if they have a voice that is wanted or needed?
- Actually encourages others to leave the department, team or company taking with them the knowledge and contribution they could be making. This is perhaps the biggest threat to any effort as it has the potential of taking the desired goal off track with the need to begin anew.
Is there good news in all of this? Of course there is and primarily because, as Sammarco indicates, decision-making skills can be learned, practiced and refined. It only requires that we acknowledge that we need to improve at the same time we recognize the impact that poor decision-making can and perhaps is having on our success in many ways.
On occasion I have often referred to this quote: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt. To the extent we buy into this thinking we are on the way to becoming more masterful as decision-makers and doing what we need to do the get there!