Why can’t the boss seem to make a decision?


I get it, I mean decisions need to be well researched, carefully thought out, and when a boss makes a decision it’s directing the vision of the company. But what if she can’t make one…ever. Even for little things? April talked recently, in her  Indecision Paralysis post, about indecisiveness and responsibility avoidance, but what if it’s another issue at play?

The company gets a sales opportunity that everyone is ready to jump on, someone throws up a red flag, and the research-it-to-death cycle begins. A decision is never made and the opportunity is lost.

Maybe this doesn’t happen in your company.  But it does happen all over Corporate America all the time. What causes the indecision cycle? What puts us into research mode? And what, if anything, can we do to fix it?

I don’t have perfect answers for all of these questions, but here’s what I think.

The idea of management, in my mind, is to see down the road: to know what’s coming, to know what might jump in the company’s path, and what barriers might present itself. But when management is constantly looking at its own feet, when they can’t trust employees, and when they must have all of the research to make a decision, they aren’t truly recognizing the environment in front of them…and indecision begins.

Information is always key, isn’t it? We must make informed decisions to reach the vision we see down the road. But that’s the thing about life – you can’t always have all of the information. Think back to the last time you bought a house or rented an apartment. You can have an inspection done, you can view the house 3 or 4 times, you can talk to neighbors in the area. But until you really live there, you can’t know everything.  Managers have to be the same way. It’s impossible in almost every situation to gather information until the decision is made for you.  Sometimes you have to walk away, to accept that you know enough about your business, the industry you’re in, your staff, and the information provided to make a decision.

Let me sidetrack a second.  My grandfather doesn’t drive like most 85 year olds. In fact, he drives more like most 25 year olds. This obviously frightens my mother (and probably most people reading), but he told me once that he has a theory about being behind the wheel of a car. The theory is this: You’ve basically put your life in your hands by deciding to drive. You can’t know what’s going through the minds of everyone on the road; you can’t know when an animal might jump out in front of your car. So be diligent, but once you commit, you must commit. Don’t start turning into an intersection and then have second thoughts and slam on the brakes because the person in the oncoming lane might hit you. You’ve committed, go for it and make it happen.

My grandfather has had his share of accidents, but surprisingly not more than the rest of us. He also ran a highly successful business for over 50 years.  Why? Because he applied the same principle.

You can never know what might jump out in the road in front of your car, but you can gather necessary facts and make a choice with the information at hand…and once you commit, be sure you commit all the way.


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