Confidently Make Decisions on Demand

By Francie Dalton

The executive ranks are brimming over with action oriented, quick thinking individuals who are ready, willing, and able to dispense decisions on demand. More challenging, though, is knowing whether a decision should be made on demand.

In the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to act precipitously, perhaps having been lured into believing that the option to do nothing doesn't exist. Such decisions often end up being changed as retrospective analysis reveals that we really should have "slept on it". Developing an ability to discern whether or not immediacy is required in decision-making is essential. You may perhaps be forgiven for reversing one decision, but more than that is justifiable reason for your constituency to second-guess all your decisions.

It's usually obvious when the luxury exits to gather more information, to get advice, to benchmark or to conduct a comprehensive business analysis; but the difference between what truly requires immediacy and that which masquerades as such is often not so obvious. So let's begin by identifying a few instances when waiting may actually be a good strategy.

  • When you've had to make a number of quick decisions, and need to lessen the perception that you're "Quick Draw McGraw"

  • When factions are divided, and you need time to build bridges between or among them

  • When the decision really should be made at a lower level

  • When others' emotions are intense and time is needed for them to dissipate 

  • When you become emotional about a particular decision. Consider this a warning that perhaps you should reconsider your motives

If you've already succumbed to feigned immediacy, you're not alone; most of us will make at least a few bad calls from rushing our decision-making. Just keep in mind that the maturity of your leadership ability is best revealed at such times, as are your most important developmental needs.

Now - let's assume immediacy is in fact required, and that the decision you have to make is surrounded by tremendous acrimony. You're in the midst of a veritable firestorm trying to manage multiple and inflammatory impasses. Perhaps the very existence of the organization or your own job is at risk. Certainly you'll need to work hard to stay above all the noise surrounding the situation, especially if you're caught amid the drama and distress of others. Subordinating the emotionalism of others to your own well-developed sense of judgment isn't easy, and there's no formula for how to do it, but it helps if you have what I can "That Special Something" when you're in the hot seat!

This "something" must so infuse you, must be so characteristic of you, that it floods your space and magnetizes others to you. It determines whether your decision will elicit commitment, and whether that commitment will be sustained over time. It requires courage, but is not courage; it gives you strength, but is not strength; it makes you resilient, but is not resilience.

It's self-confidence. Not arrogance; not superiority; not ego, but a self-confidence that radiates steadiness, surety and wisdom in times of trouble.

One of the best indicators of self-confidence is one's willingness to choose the decision that is best for one's profession, or for one's organization, regardless of the consequences to oneself. Self-confidence doesn't automatically ensure that you'll get outcome you're shooting for, and it doesn't mean anyone will actually realize the impact or import of the decisions. You can't even count on self-confidence being the catalyst that causes your adversaries to reverse their positions and join your camp. But having self-confidence does mean that you'll be able to face the problem, weather the storm - and still be standing when the battle is over.

Realize that in these firestorms, some decisions just won't feel right; indeed you may have to make decisions that are actually counterintuitive to you. At such times, key audiences know that the decision you're facing is crucial, and they're holding their proverbial breath waiting to see what you'll do. Keep in mind that what you decide, and how you explain your decision, will define you. So make sure the behavior you display at these times is the behavior you want others to see.  

Read other articles and learn more about Francie Dalton.

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