You Don’t Have To Make A Decision Till You’re Ready
I once had a mess of a job. One of those you shouldn’t have taken but did because it offered a chance to grow into senior management. But I did get one of best pieces of advice during that time.
I was facing a situation where I knew the right decision to an issue I needed to address but I also knew it was going to be unpopular with various constituencies. The organization had too many self empowered stakeholders and they were accustomed to being outraged no matter how minor or how low the stakes were in any situation.
My boss, the CEO, sat me down to talk about the situation. I detailed my decision and how I was going to implement it. I had a timeline, a cost benefit analysis and a FAQ. I was ready. We both knew this was the right thing, luckily she had more experience with the organization.
She started off by asking “What’s the rush?” I told her I wanted to get over the issue and move on to making real progress. She asked me if I really needed to implement the decision at that point. Wasn’t there benefit to just letting it hang out there and let people talk themselves to death -before- you make the decision. Just say “Oh, that’s an interesting point. Let me think about that.” And say it till you’re tired of hearing it. Is a month or two really going to make a difference?
Then she said something I’ll always remember: “Once you make a decision, it’s yours to own. You have to defend and you can’t back away from it,or you’ll be seen as weak and those crazy people will pounce on you like cats on a rat. If it’s going to get hot, you’re gonna sweat.” (she was pretty visual with her analogies).
I had a moment of clarity as we talked further. Sure, I knew the solution to the issue and I knew I had the right decision. But maybe I’d learn something from listening to people who I knew would disagree with me once the decision that I could use in my FAQ or timeline. Sure, I most likely wouldn’t alter my decision, but the quality of my implementation would go up and be easier.
That conversation took place over 20 years and I remember it every time I’m confronted by a complex issue that requires a definitive decision. So that’s how I, Stephen Yasko, got a great piece of advice.