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Leadership Decision Making
Postponing our company picnic highlights three key principles for making smart decisions.

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I drove through rain at 7:30 A.M. this morning while on my way to a breakfast appointment. At 9 A.M. I walked through rain from the parking lot to the office. Moments before a 10 A.M. leadership team meeting, the hour-by-hour weather forecast showed rain turning into thunderstorms by 4 P.M. Our team made the disappointing decision to postpone the company family picnic scheduled to start at 3 P.M.

By noon the sun shone brightly.

By 2 P.M. the hourly weather forecast showed light rain maybe arriving after 8 P.M. Maybe? What happened to the threatening weather?

I hope the other decisions made by our leadership team this morning turn out better. Much better.

On the positive side of this issue, our office snack inventory hit an all-time high—we will munch well for many days. Very well.

Ah, the unspoken taxes paid by leaders: decision scrutiny and decision regret when decisions prove wrong. Some leaders put off making choices because they fear paying such levies. With relief, they cling to experts who recommend avoiding decisions until the last possible moment. I admit, though, that had we delayed making our picnic decision, the smell of burgers and brats would waft through the park in little more than an hour. Instead, here in my office I can breathe deep and detect old coffee, corn chips, and that odd aroma from slightly damp shoes. So I won't breathe deep again.

Other leaders stubbornly stick to resolutions made days, weeks, months, or years ago—unwilling to rethink or react. They, too, would soon enjoy the whiff of charcoal due to unwillingness to look at today's forecast.

Do I regret our decision? No. Why? Because it was the right decision made with the best available information in a timely manner. We would have looked at the weather forecast even if sunny weather ruled the skies this morning—and we would have still made the same choice, given the green and red colored masses headed our way on the weather-in-motion Doppler radar.

In this casual case study, you can catch glimpses of three fundamental elements of decision making:

(1) Make the decision that's right for the team, group, or organization no matter how popular (or in our case, unpopular) the decision will prove to be with other people. Plenty of planning went into our picnic, but we couldn't take a chance on the misery of a downpour or the danger of lightning. In your case, maybe you need to reconsider programs that launched but did not flourish, a reorganization that seemed like a good idea at the time but isn't anymore, or a hire who's lost the fire. So wake up and smell the coffee/corn chips/shoe odor—you must make tough choices.

(2) Use the best available information. The weather radar typically does a good job, so that's why we trusted its conclusion. No leader should expect to be accurate100 percent of the time. But leaders should always use whatever data is available to make the best decision. Disclaimer: With the Internet a mere click away, a nearly unlimited supply of data is available. Enough information to make a decision serves as the target.

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Topics:Decision making, Decisions, Leadership, Planning, Teamwork
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