Leadership Lessons | Delaying the tough call only makes it worse

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Do it quickly, don’t look back … and move on

Remember how Mom used to say: “You know better than that?”

It wasn’t that we were ignorant or unaware of what was supposed to be done. Quite the contrary. We knew damn well what we were supposed to do but we just didn’t want to do it. Why not?

Why don’t we do what we know we should do?

That’s the eternal conundrum, isn’t it my friends? Why don’t we do what we know we must do? Libraries are brimming with wit and wisdom to get us to do it — and there’s a bottomless pit of experts, gurus and charlatans filling the self-help sections in bookstores to help us find salvation and explode into extraordinary success.

So, with all of this help available — do you seek it out? — Why do the same issues keep showing up like destructive blood cells traversing our circulatory system?

How many excuses … er, reasons … do we have?

As I was writing some of the recent retrospective columns, I thought I had about three main reasons why the issues I’ve written about over four years keep making the rounds to face us again and again. As I’ve thought about it, however, I’ve found more like a dozen reasons. Too many, really, because it gives us even more excuses — er, reasons — not to resolve the issues before us.

So, over the next several columns, because understanding this organic chemistry question may be the solution most critical to your success, we’ll tackle them.

Symptoms, Challenges … and Solutions

I’ve changed up the format to make sure we don’t dwell on the challenges without taking on the solutions. I’ve also offered some ideas about how to recognize the symptoms as well as how to strap on your warrior mojo to combat these sworn enemies of success. So, in no particular order …

CHALLENGE No. 1: Refusal to make the tough decisions

What are these tough decisions? They’re the ones where your gut knows the right answer but you resist because you know it will bring a lot of blowback. Maybe it’s the termination of a long-time employee or the closing of a facility, but it’s a decision that won’t go quietly into the night.

If delaying these tough decisions resulted in better outcomes, all the better — but the fascinating dynamic of this decision process is that delay or hesitation rarely changes the outcome; it only postpones it. Since the tough decision you don’t make is usually the right decision, it continues to nag at you until you eventually pull the ripcord when you’re convinced for the 15th time that it is the right decision. In the interim, however, you’ve actually created even more turmoil because you, and everyone around you, have had to deal with the ramifications of the wrong decision over these many months. How painful is that?


When you feel that stirring in your gut, when you feel the bile begin to start crawling up your esophagus, that’s a pretty reliable sign something’s amiss. Likewise, when you realize that you’re mired in the world of “paralysis by analysis,” endlessly seeking some fact pattern that will support your unpopular decision, you can be pretty sure you’re postponing the inevitable.

When you stare into the mirror and see “wishful thinking” etched into its foggy surface, you’re there.


When you know you’re right, whether in your gut or with every fact you can muster, pull the trigger. Do what you know is right. There will always be unwelcome fallout, but that happens just as often when a decision is unanimous. Do it quickly, don’t look back and move on to the next problem.

I know, we’ve spilt some ink on this one — yes, again — but it’s the nucleus of the gamesmanship we play that corrupts our personal productivity, straps an anvil onto the limbs of organizational momentum — and consumes that most precious commodity, time — which is really not a commodity at all — that we could otherwise spend on the next set of decisions that await, like eager novitiates, to invade our headspace.

Get past this one so you can move on to the next one — just like we’ll do next time.

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