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Making the Difficult Decisions

All business leaders are faced with having to make difficult gut wrenching decisions.

Some handle it well, others get through it, a lot procrastinate. What seems to make the difference? Generally, it has to do with having the confidence that you are making the right decision.

It is usually best to make these difficult decisions in a timely fashion. Not necessarily quickly, but with a high level of priority. They don’t get easier the longer you wait, in fact, they get more difficult. There is a story told in the south about this. It is an analogy with the gut wrenching decision being compared to a frog. It goes something like this; if you have frog to swallow do it first thing in the morning, otherwise it gets bigger and uglier throughout the day or weeks. And you are having to look at it and be bothered by it all this time. Inevitably you are going to have to swallow this toad, so do it sooner than later.

If it is confidence we need to make these difficult decisions, how do we get it? One of the proven ways to increase our confidence is to make a lot of bad decisions and learn from them. We learn more from our bad decisions than we do from our good ones. When we make a bad decision, we need to do something about it; come up with a corrective action. These can be costly, time consuming or painful. So hopefully, we are taking the time to do a post mortem to decide what went wrong. All this effort burns the experience into our brain. When we make a good decision, no further action is required and we move on. Therefore, we have much less of a learning experience

The most effective way to build confidence in your decisions is to talk with others about it.

Clearly this should start with your key staff, but sometimes that is not practical or appropriate. It may be about a confidential situation or be too closely related to them. Secondly, you should talk with your Board or other CEOs and business owners. They would offer an ownership perspective that you wouldn’t get from your employees.

Best of all, talking with a peer group in a more formal setting would give you the confidence you would need to move forward with almost any decision. This type of group offers the following advantage:

  1. Taking the time to really understand the problem and its root cause. Since the CEOs here are less familiar with your business, you are less likely to assume they know things which are critical to the decision making process. Also, they are not afraid to ask some difficult questions to further clarify the situation.

  2. They will not be caught up in the emotional aspects of the issue nor biased by the relationship with you.

  3. Generally, one or more of the group will have faced an issue like the one you have to make the decision about. They can share with you their experience of what worked and didn’t.

  4. They are likely to come up with options you haven’t considered. Peer groups usually spend a lot more time really discussing your situation and then brainstorming to come up with many different solutions. This way you are likely to end up with the best possible solution.

  5. Identify pitfalls of options you were considering that you had overlooked.

Actions you can take now.

  1. If you have a frog to swallow, do it first thing. It won’t get easier.

  2. Decide who you will talk with to give you more confidence with your next big decision.

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