Tough Decisions Take Courage

August 6, 2015By Views

by Dave Wendland, as seen in Healthcare Distributor magazine, Out of the Box column

March/April 2015

If decision-making was easy, everyone would do it. What's so hard about decision-making? It's tough because it requires discipline, experience, patience, empathy, and courage. I'm going to briefly describe traits of effective decision-makers and share a few examples of success.

Making decisions requires a thoughtful process to gather the necessary information and permit time for analysis and review. It is best achieved by establishing a series of repeatable steps that can assess the variables, weigh the pros and cons, and come to a final conclusion that supports the evidence.

Past decisions can - and should - weigh heavily as consideration is given to new circumstances. Although current decisions may not align perfectly with those made in the past, every decision encountered results in outcomes that are part of an experiential education.

Making snap decisions can cause irreparable harm. Although the luxury of time and thorough research is seldom feasible, I believe that no business-changing decision demands a split-second response. Whether reflecting for an hour or giving yourself a 24-hour sleep test, the creation of space between the disciplined analysis of the options and a final verdict is always best.

Ultimately, decisions affect people. And these decisions will affect different people in different ways. Assuming responsibility for the consequences - good or bad - of a decision is an expression of strong leadership. This human side of decision-making requires compassion.

At the end of the day, I believe tough decisions are acts of valor. Remaining confident and steadfast throughout the process is a courageous feat. It is certainly not for the faint of heart or for those who will second guess each and every decision. Once made with courage, the consequences - positive or negative - create the new normal.

Decision-making has been described as the end of deliberation and the beginning of action. There are countless examples of effective decision-makers whom I feel set a good example in my own contemplations.

Jack Welch, during his time at General Electric, made some of the toughest business decisions of the time. Not all met his expectations or caused positive outcomes for the company, but all were courageous. His decisions were not made for the sake of popularity - they were simply judged appropriate to help GE achieve its objectives.

Another leader who I feel deserves recognition for her decision-making is Condoleezza Rice. Most recognized for her work as Secretary of State, she consistently showed discipline and relied on her experience as she evaluated potential paths. I believe she was honest, reliable, and steady in both judgment and execution.

Good decision-making also seems a skill embodied by Bill Gates. It is certainly not a requirement that good examples of strong leaders and solid decision-makers lead one of the most predominant companies in the world. Gates' empathetic and intuitive approach to making decisions with his less-than-demonstrative demeanor is a good example of how to effectively gain the support of fellow team members, customers, and suppliers.

Finally, one of the decision makers I admired most and learned much from during my career was my father. Not only disciplined, honest, and courageous, I also learned one of the most valuable decision-making truths from him. He reminded me that "if you cannot imagine the effects of a decision by putting yourself in the shoes of all those effected, you are not ready to make a decision."

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