Who likes squirrels? I think they are kinda cute. They are fun to watch, seeing them jumping around, hopping from tree to tree. They are great at gathering food, building nests and preparing for long winters. What they are not good at? Crossing the road!
They are one of the most indecisive creatures I’ve ever seen. They straddle yellow street lines, darting from side to side. They freeze up at oncoming cars…unable to make a decision… Until all of a sudden… WHAM! No more SQUIRREL! That’s right, roadkill. As my father always told me, “He who hesitates is dead!” And this is exactly what happens when leaders become paralyzed under pressure and fail to make decisive decisions.
MAKE THE DECISION…
Decisive decision making is paramount to great leadership. You must be able to be both decisive and flexible in your decision making in order to be successful, even when you don’t have all the information at hand.
Former Secretary of State, General Colin Powell stated that he needed a minimum of 40% to a maximum of 70% of the information to make a decision. I will tell you, when I was in the news industry leading newsrooms through major crises I relied on less than that. Sometimes a few lines of Associated Press wire copy was all I had to make decisions to ramp up breaking news coverage or not. The point is, you will never have 100% of the information at hand. And by the time you do, you’ve lost your advantage. You must get comfortable making decisions when you are uncomfortable and be flexible when doing so.
DECISIVE, YET FLEXIBLE…
One of the most important ingredients for long term success is the ability to be flexible in your decision making. Think about it, the quickest way from point A to B is to follow a straight line or Center Line. However, decisions in life and business are rarely ever straight forward. In reality, decisive decision making is similar to a Squiggly Line or a skier making his/her way down a mountain, going side to side, working their way from point A to B.
Upon further inspection, that squiggly (decision) line or path a skier carves into the mountain is not entirely rigid, it’s FLEXIBLE! It curves and bends as it crisscrosses the center line on its way towards the goal line (Point B). That curvature and bending in the lines is the flexibility needed for a skier to maintain control all the way down the mountain unharmed. And that center line is there as a guide to keep you focused in the direction needed to reach the goal.
This example is what I mean when I talk about being decisive in your decision making, yet flexible at the same time. Both are needed to be successful and to reach your ultimate goal, be it long term or short term. You cannot always be rigid. Are there times when snap decisions are needed to be made? Sure. But ideally you have to give yourself the latitude to make changes and course correct when necessary. Flexibility in your decisions allows for that. As long as you don’t veer too far off from the center (your initial direction), you will be just fine. Otherwise you are being stubborn. And being stubborn is not leading or adding value to the situation at hand.
BRING YOUR VALUE TO LEADERSHIP…
“Value Leadership” is to make bold, honest and impactful decisions. Leaders are not paid to tell people what they WANT to hear. Leaders are paid to tell people WHAT THEY NEED TO HEAR.
If you are just telling your bosses and employees what they want to hear, you are not being honest. Not being honest has a lot of ramifications (read more here).
If your decisions are based on covering your own ass, well… then you need to rethink your position.
You want to be different and stand out? Then distinguish yourself from all the other “leaders” that are just spewing nonsense and tell it like it is. Just make sure you have a plan or solution to back up bold statements. I tell you this because leaders must not be afraid to make the tough decisions.
The consequences of inaction are more devastating than the fallout from a bad decision. Inaction will get you fired!
It can be difficult to be a leader. Not all decisions are easy. Most decisions will come with some fallout or praise. When you make a mistake, acknowledge it. Make sure to take responsibility for it, then course correct quickly and appropriately.
Whenever you get frustrated, just remember that becoming a great leader takes time, experience and patience. It’s a continuous journey of learning and training. Believe in yourself when pressure packed moments come, that you will have the courage and discipline necessary to MAKE THE DECISION! Otherwise, you’ll end up like the squirrel. Don’t be the squirrel!
Always be leading!
Bernie Pigott is a leadership speaker, management consultant and media communications expert. He is a former Senior Manager and Producer with over 20 years of experience in the news industry working for FOX News Channel, FOX News Radio and CNBC. Mr. Pigott is a C-Suite Network Advisor and contributing editor for the C-Suite Network. For a FREE consultation on how Mr. Pigott can help you and your organization maximize performance, productivity and profits… Contact us at BerniePigott.com.