making tough decisions1
Leadership Management

Making the Tough Decisions as an Entrepreneur

One of the most important roles of leaders is making the tough decisions.  

The decisions no one else wants to make… 

But everyone wants you to make… 

The decisions some will criticize you for not making sooner… 

While others will disagree with what you decide. 

But the buck stops with you.  

Tough decisions include: 

  • Identifying the right talent to add to the team. 
  • Removing unproductive people from the team. 
  • Directing financial resources to grow the organization. 
  • Reducing expenses to meet financial targets. 
  • Providing products and services to customers or clients. 
  • Providing benefits and resources to employees. 
  • Downsizing or right-sizing the organization. 
  • Determining the capability and capacity of the organization to meet its goals. 

Often, there’s no shortage of data or insights to guide your decision. Yet there’s always a gap between predicting or anticipating the future and the reality of what will happen. 

And to be honest, you feel fear of (a) making the wrong decision, or (b) fallout from making the right and necessary decision. You might feel embarrassment because your tough decision makes it clear that your prior decision was wrong and you’re back-tracking. Meanwhile, there was a financial and reputational cost to the organization. 

And you might behave with avoidance, delaying addressing the issue. You know it won’t resolve itself, yet you’re unwilling to face a looming crisis.  

These forms of indecision are unproductive. They lead to you waffling, being overly emotional, and second-guessing yourself as you struggle to reach a conclusion on the decision you need to make. The topic is either not on your meeting agendas at all, or it’s repeatedly there with no progress. 

On the other hand, being in-decision can be productive. Being “in-decision” is when you’re actively gathering inputs to guide you. You’re keeping the right staff members aware of the decision’s status, encourage them to share their inputs and perspectives, and you’re closely monitoring the key performance indicators. 

Timing is paramount. Know when the decision must be made and when it’s too late in the context of cost overruns, reputational damage (both organizational and personal), or failure to deliver on programs and services. There’s a balance between having enough information (because the right decision is still the same, even if you wait) and others recognizing the value of your decision. 

Great leaders make the tough decisions 

Great leaders are skilled at: 

Identifying a looming problem… 

Gathering information to assess it… 

And deciding what to do about it… 

To ensure the success of their organization and the engagement of their team. 

Great leaders take responsibility for tough decisions. They draw others into the conversation. They admit missteps. They look for multiple sources of expertise. They balance the logical and emotional aspects of the issue. They hold their team accountable for their commitments. They leverage new approaches against those that are “tried and true”.  

And sometimes, when leaders make the tough decision they’ve been dreading, they see that their team is breathing a sigh of relief. Everyone knew the decision had to be made and the necessary thing to do. But they feared the outcome and its effect on them and their teams. Only when fear of indecision exceeds the fear of the outcome does the leader make that tough decision. Hopefully, it’s not too late.  

If you wait too long, abdicate your role, are consumed with indecision, and don’t recognize the imperative timing to make the tough decision, then someone else will make it for you. And when they do, it’s your signal that you no longer hold the authority of your role. Either your banker, your boss, or your board is now in control.  Their trust in you has faltered. Regaining it will be hard, maybe impossible.  

Great leaders look tough decisions in the eye and make the right decision, at the right time, for the right reasons. 

What tough decisions are you facing? How will you lead? 

About the author

Priscilla Archangel

Priscilla Archangel, Ph.D. is a seasoned leadership consultant, executive coach, author, speaker, and teacher. She has a passion for developing leaders, and motivating individuals and organizations to align their values, behaviors and goals with their purpose. Visit priscillaarchangel.com.

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