As a leader you need to drive action. Ideas are great but someone has to put them in motion for them to be worthwhile, and deciding to do that is no easy task.
Acting on a decision can be terrifying, especially in the case of large-scale change. Your decision may affect a significant number of people, and what if it is the wrong decision? What if things do not go as expected and the resulting outcome negatively impacts you or your organization? You could lose your job. Worse, hundreds of other people could lose theirs.
It is hard enough to act on decisions when just facing your own insecurities. Throw the complexities of your organization into the mix and the angst increases exponentially. Politics, lack of resources, uncertainty, doubt, and fear all mess with our minds right when we are on the verge of taking action. It is no wonder so many leaders have gray hair!
However, I am challenging you to be thought leaders. Being a thought leader requires you to be bold. Your decisions must be clear and forceful. The "thought" part of the equation only gets you halfway to your destination. As my colleague Alan Veeck says "It's good to have thoughts, but that's not enough." Being a true thought leader means you not only agitate for but also lead change. Such leadership requires decisive action on your part.
You probably see it all the time - people and teams suffering from analysis paralysis. They are unable to make a decision and instead their organization languishes in the purgatory of endless Excel models.
People fear making decisions. They sometimes believe, erroneously for the most part, they are better off making no decision than making an incorrect one. By not making a decision, they think they cannot be fired or disciplined for being wrong.
An old maxim of mine that addressed this issue was a RUSH lyric in their song Freewill: "If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice." Inaction is still an action. It is choosing not to choose. When decisions are not made, organizations stagnate and eventually go down the tubes. That is when the really hard decisions have to be made. Layoffs, restructuring, divestitures and other painful choices await organizations that cannot make a decision and act on it.
I worked for a great boss at one point who helped me realize the negative impact of analysis paralysis. He drove home the point that it is important to act because waiting is not free. I took him a business case and told him it was worth $1,000,000 in income over the next twelve months.
He asked if I was implementing the idea immediately. I told him I was going to wait a week and do some additional analysis then go live with the change I was proposing. He said "When you come back next week with your additional analysis, the business case had better be worth another $20,000 because that's what seven days costs at a run rate of $1,000,000. Is your analysis worth $20,000?" My answer was no. We went live that day. Inaction has a quantifiable cost.
Leaders have to make choices. Many times those choices are painful. The decisions a leader makes can affect dozens to thousands of people. Their actions determine if someone has a job, gets a raise, or moves to a new city. They create businesses and close others. And in the most extreme cases their actions change the course of industry and therefore the way we live our lives.
Sometimes the results of a leader's actions are spectacular. Other times the results are spectacular disasters. Nonetheless, leaders must make decisions and act.
Some of the best advice I've ever heard about the need to make a decision is a simple five word quote:
"In case of doubt, attack!" – General George S. Patton III
How do you spur yourself onward to action? What is your approach to decision making? Are you aggressive? Do you make "gut" decisions or do you prefer to gather as much information as possible before making a call? Do you procrastinate? Are there certain types of decisions you find easier to make than others? Are there any types of decisions you hate making?
You need to evaluate how you currently make decisions before articulating a maxim designed to focus your decision making efforts.
Think about an important decision you have made in the recent past. Choose one that had an outcome you are happy with. What has contributed to your sense of satisfaction with that decision? Is it the result? Are you happy with how people were involved in making the decision? Did your decision get positive attention from someone important in your life?
Try to break apart the components and figure out why you are happy with the decision because those reasons are important drivers of your behavior.
That's the end of the excerpt but you can start using the method today. Create a reminder for yourself that you must take action and be decisive. Use that reminder to break through analysis paralysis. You'll be glad you did.