The dog days of summer are upon us, which means orientations, vacations (hopefully) and strategic planning meetings for the upcoming school year. This is our rare opportunity to elevate to 10,000 feet, think more broadly about goals, processes, people, etc., before the frenzy of the new recruitment cycle starts in fall.
And as a leader, it’s also time to make some decisions to shape the upcoming year.
Fascinatingly, one of the most crucial aspects of leadership that is rarely, if ever, taught is making decisions. Yet mastering that skill can be the difference between being great or being average.
For your team and organization to make the most meaningful progress and have the most success, you as a leader have to make decisions – any decision – even if it doesn’t end up working out. Sound obvious? Take a moment and jot down a few things you are currently procrastinating on.
Should you realign recruitment territories? Cut back on high school visits? Which of the three candidates do you want to hire as a new admission counselor? Take that international recruiting trip?
We all have these lingering items that we aren’t sure how to handle, and either fear of making the wrong decision or inability to effectively discuss and debate it cause it to remain unsolved. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to really understand an issue, but there is a fine line between proper due diligence and analysis paralysis. At a certain point, it’s time to make a decision and the limited and precious time you have begins to be wasted by continuing to revisit and rehash things.
I find that if I spend 20 minutes thinking about something I need to make a decision on and then do not make the decision, that 20 minutes was ultimately wasted because I often need to spend close to that same 20 minutes the next time I revisit the issue! Even if I make a decision that in hindsight turns out to be a poor one, I’ve actually freed up my time and mental energy to work on other important things that can contribute to the success of the organization.
In his blog, Gino Wickman talks about Napoleon Hill’s classic book “Think & Grow Rich,” that cited a study analyzing 25,000 people who had experienced failure. Lack of decision, or procrastination, was one of the major causes. In contrast, analysis of several hundred millionaires revealed that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly and changing them slowly.
Wickman highlights a great philosophy called “entering the danger.”
In tough times, people tend to freeze. When you’re afraid, your brain actually works against you. Research now shows us that when we are fearful, we use the back part of our brain, the amygdala. That’s our primal brain, developed 10,000 years ago to protect us from predators. It’s our fight-or-flight response, which doesn’t serve us well when solving business problems.
You must shift to the prefrontal part of the brain, the rational and critical thinking part. That will serve you well in the decision-making situations. The way to do this is to simply list all of the things that are worrying you: all of the problems, concerns, and fears. You can do this as an individual or as leadership in one of your meetings. Being open and honest will enable you to confront and solve your critical issues and get moving forward again.
Decisions can be hard, especially if there isn’t consensus, but as Wickman says, you have to have a strong will, firm resolve, and the willingness to make a tough call so you can move on to other important items. Not everything will work out perfectly, but that’s OK. Michael Jordan is famous for saying “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
So take a shot. Remember, it’s less important what you decide than that you decide something.
If you want to grow yourself as a leader and save lots of time procrastinating on decisions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the secret password DECIDE in the subject line and I’ll send you Gino Wickman’s e-book “Decide!”
Father Time, or Chris Wills, is passionate about helping other leaders learn and grow and free up time they didn’t think they had. He is the Founder of Student Paths, an organization that better prepares students for their future in college, career and life readiness.