Yes, No, Maybe…?
I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed it severely impacts my ability to make decisions. As I ponder all of the decisions I have to make, usually with short timelines and significant consequences if I get it wrong, I often feel unprepared and uncomfortable making a final commitment.
A leader recently said to me, “with everything on my plate I barely have time to do the analysis required to make an informed decisions, so I have to either make a hasty decision or defer entirely.” I couldn’t agree more. Some decisions are hard to make. For some people, making any kind of decision is hard. For most of us though, the hardest decisions can cause the biggest delays, often because there is so much emotion attached to making that decision.
The BIG ones:
“Decision is a sharp knife that cuts clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves ragged edges behind it.”
– Gordon Graham
There are lots of big decisions we need to make. They are big because they have a significant impact on our future, such as:
- Quitting a job
- Taking a new job
- Getting married
- Having a baby
- Starting a new career
- Going back to school
- Asking for a promotion
We are also required to make significant decisions more often then just the big life milestone ones. You need to make choices about how to spend your budget, who will be hired or fired, how to communicate bad news to your team, how to lead a new department, etc. On a weekly basis you make important decisions.
Being indecisive can look like:
- Procrastinating, stalling, and pushing deadlines further into the future, often more than once
- Making other tasks a priority, which is often part of procrastinating
- Clutter, emotional and/or physical. Clutter represents a delayed decision. When there is clutter, there is indecision.
Ultimately we are indecisive when we have fear. Fear of making the wrong decision, fear of regret, fear of the future consequences if we make the wrong choice.
Ironically, we can decide the ‘wrong’ thing, because indecision is still a decision The worst outcome of all is not deciding “wrong”; It is not deciding at all.
How to Take Action
- Do your homework, your research, and your due diligence. Seek the expert opinions of people you respect.
- Stop looking for a guarantee. Life doesn’t promise that things will work as you planned. The only guarantee is that change will happen. Making a decision will ensure you help shape the change to come, but you can’t control all variables.
- Have a back-up plan. This can provide comfort in case your Plan A doesn’t go the way you want.
- Trust yourself! Believe in your ability to make good decisions and know that you have the ability to change course if need be.
- Just do it! As the famous Disney song goes “Let it Go.” Jump in, make the decision and promise yourself not to obsess over it after it’s done.
What to Do If Your Leader is Indecisive
Sometimes we work for leaders that are indecisive either because they are stressed and overwhelmed, or their leader is indecisive and they need to wait for their approval, or they have fear of failure.
This can make it very challenging if you are seeking a decision, big or small, and require your leader’s approval before you can move forward. Here are some tips on what you can do to help move the decision process along:
1. Ask Questions
Ask strategic questions that will help clarify next steps, such as:
- What is the goal we want to achieve?
- What is the first priority?
- Who is responsible to complete each part?
- What is the timeline? What happens if we miss our deadline?
This can help your leader feel more comfortable making a decision or provide him or her with the information required to sell it to senior leaders.
2. Offer a Proposal
Propose a solution that is detailed, well thought out and concrete. By limiting the options, your leader is less likely to get caught up in “analysis to paralysis” mode and will be able to make a decision in the direction you wish them to move. It will alleviate the fear of making the wrong choice and will high light your critical thinking skills, thus increasing your leader’s trust in your decision making abilities.
3. Be honest
It’s possible your leader isn’t aware that he or she negatively impacts your ability to be successful by delaying their decision-making. Be honest about the impact to you and the team and ask how you can help in the future to present information in a way that is easier to review, analyze and take action on.
If your manager’s indecision leads to a complete stand-still in your work, look for opportunities to collaborate across departments. When opportunity arises for you to offer your support on a project, jump in. Demonstrate your ability to execute and perform. Your determination to be productive and add value to the organization will open doors for you, even if your manager isn’t prepared to make a decision, choose a path and take action.