Monday, January 30, 2012

Don’t Hesitate When You Need to Be Decisive

We once hired a graphic artist who blew us away with the quality of his portfolio. He said all the right things during the interview and seemed to be the perfect fit for our company.

But once he started working for us, we discovered that he didn’t have the skills he said he had. My two business partners and I decided to give him a week to show us what he could do. It turned out that he couldn’t even perform some of the most basic tasks. The morning we agreed that we had made a mistake, he was out of the company by noon.

Most of the time people don’t make decisions this quickly. That’s because decisions are tricky, especially important ones. You may have several options, and each one could have unique advantages and disadvantages. What to do isn’t always clear. You can’t know in advance whether your decision will work out.

If you don’t get it right, there may be bad consequences. People who matter to you might criticize your decision. And the wrong choice could cost you money. So if the stakes are high, you may be reluctant to move forward.

When you’re not sure, do these three things.

1.  Get the facts. Which ones are most important to your decision?

2.  Compare your options carefully. Consider the costs and the consequences.

3.  Do a gut-check. Does the option you favor feel right?

Once you’ve complete those steps, you’ll have a pretty good sense about what to do. So make your decision and don’t second-guess yourself once you’ve made your choice.

Remember, there’s magic in action. While it’s true that you should do your homework and evaluate your options, you need to watch out for the paralysis of analysis. Much of what you’d like to know may be impossible to learn in advance, especially future consequences. If you sit on the fence too long, you could miss big opportunities. So make your call based on the best information you have at the time, and then focus on getting the best possible results.

Keep in mind that a wrong choice isn’t the end of the world. You can always learn as you go and consider new options, no matter what happens.

In the case of our graphic designer, after we let the person go, we took more time with the next set of candidates. We clarified the skills that were most important to us, and we were more thorough about checking references. In other words, we learned from our earlier experience. And next time around, we hired someone who was a great match and worked with us for several years.
“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.” – Napoleon Bonaparte, French emperor (1769-1821)


  1. Really cool post! Thanks a lot for sharing it.

  2. Nice post about avoid over analyzing a decision.

    One thing to consider, is the tactical trade off between the timing of the decision and the gathering of information.

    If the decision needs to be made by Friday, it is fine to spend as much time as possible gathering those facts. The gut only need to be consulted by Thursday night or Friday morning.

    Agreed that once the decision is made, you have to work from that point. You can't go back in time to pach things up without help from a Delorean, flux capacitor and Michael J. Fox.

  3. Catherine, thanks for the positive feedback. I appreciate the additional insights your provided about timing.


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