Skip to content

I Can’t Decide (#14)

The Confident Leader

“How can I make decisions for next year’s plan? I can’t even decide what we should do this week?” she said resignedly.

Choices are the hinges of destiny.
— Edwin Markham, American Poet

This Week’s Edition

With the ground shifting every day in the middle of a pandemic, how can a leader make any sort of reliable decision for today or about the future?

Clarify Your Thinking

“Robin, I’m having a hard time making any concrete decisions about our growth plans in 2021. I just don’t have enough information to be confident.” Kate said.

“What’s different than in past years?” I asked.

“I typically base my sales forecasts on past performance and an educated guess about the trends. There is nothing educated about absolute uncertainty.”

“But, if everything is based on an assumption anyway, why is this different?”

“Robin, at the end of the day, I’m afraid my guesses will be wrong.” She confessed. “It’s too risky. The stakes are high. Everyone is watching. We can’t afford to not get it right.”

Generally, leaders hold themselves to an impossible standard: don’t be wrong… always be right. In a crisis, the never-be-wrong mentality is a form of playing not to lose. It prevents decisiveness and allows leadership doubt to take hold and grow the point of paralysis. 

Once Kate recognized the thinking issue that was holding her back, she verbalized her new thinking:

• In a pandemic, most leaders are in the same boat.

• Very few know exactly what to do.

• To NOT make decisions keep us out of the game.

• To make decisions keeps us in the game.

• Decisive leaders are trying different things.

• Some decisions work out. Some don’t.

• There is a lot of grace to make mistakes right now.

• If I fail, it generates useful information.

• Who knows if I’m actually “wrong” until I try?

The Clarify Your Thinking Worksheet will help you identify thinking that keeps you from making crucial decisions.

post pandemic vision

Thoughts Lead to Actions

Once Kate refocused her thinking, she was ready to be decisive, but how? 

In the pandemic, leaders face complex issues outside their expertise. Often, they do not have sufficient information to fully understand the fluid situation. Also, it’s difficult to predict and outcome if the leader has not encountered the situation previously. 

These forces prove that a leader’s traditional go-to decision-making approach may not be effective during a crisis. As a result, leaders are approaching decision making differently during chaotic times.  

Leaders I work with offer the following:

• Establish a clear checklist of realistic criteria that must be considered for each decision.

• Create a quick response process to evaluate, discuss and decide.

• Assemble a team with diverse viewpoints to vet the situation and make decision recommendations.

These new approaches have leaders sharing the burden for decision making which helps them move beyond analysis paralysis. Leaders are quick to add that a set-it-and-forget-it style of decision making is high risk leadership behavior. The offer the following additional instruction even after a decision has been made: 

• Hold decisions loosely to remain flexible in case a different decision is needed.

• Closely monitor decisions to identify any possible derailment.

• Gather information and make changes quickly as needed.

• Do not succumb to decision fatigue. Stay focused. Keep making decisions.

Boost Your Performance

With every new piece of information, you get an opportunity to make a different decision. The paradox: making a decision improves your ability to be decisive. Decisions beget decisions.  

What’s Your Opinion?

Share with me your approach to decision making.

Don’t let doubt count you out. Have a confident week!

robin pou, chief advisor and strategist

Robin Pou, Chief Advisor and Strategist

If this was helpful, feel free to share it with another leader who needs to defeat doubt and complete their confidence.

Let’s Connect

Follow me on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.

What is “The Confident Leader”?

During the Covid-19 Pandemic, I began a video series called “Panic or Plan?” It was designed to equip leaders to navigate the doubt they experienced and to rise in the confidence they needed to lead during turbulent times. It took off. I then started this newsletter to equip leaders in the same fashion each week for the doubt that crashes across the bow of their leaderSHIP.

Let’s Do This!

    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at any time.