We treat collaboration as if it’s sacred. But it has it’s own tradeoffs. The fact is, when there’s a capable decision maker, decisions get made quicker. And when there’s collaboration, they get made slower. It’s up to us to decide what mix we want. But we’re here to talk about something that gets forgotten a lot: the fact that leaders need to own the decisions.
Confusion Kills Decisions
If you can’t trust your own decisions, you can’t move forward. And involving other people doesn’t always help you. They question, they stall, and they put the burden of proof on you, if you let them.
- When collaboration goes wrong, it muddies the waters, making it impossible to move forward.
- We, in good faith, bring others into the decision-making process who don’t want it to succeed.
- Unknowable political motives make it hard to really understand why someone is objecting to your plan.
And these situations repeat themselves because we feel pressure to ignore our own instincts about the motives of others, and involve them in the name of kindness or inclusion.
I go to the boss with an idea. She says we need more research. Instead of showing her that the research is done and pushing her to be specific about what’s missing and focusing her on the goal, I go and get more research, without even understanding why.
In other words, I defer to her judgement, allowing myself to get bullied. And it may be my own fault for not trusting in myself enough to provide real value by pushing back.
What I should do is to respectfully, but directly, tell her that she has all the information she needs to make a decision. And if she wants to hold off, that’s up to her. But be clear that that’s the decision she’s making.
Here’s what we do about it.
And while this needs to stop, getting to a solution is not easy. To get there, we need an appreciation for our own judgment. And we need to use that judgement to cut through the extra work and clutter that others want to put in the way.
There’s a time to be helpful, and a time to be productive. Productive leaders respect their own time and skill enough that they rarely get walked on. They’re focused on their goals. This frees them up to do good.
Here’s what it looks like.
A 3-Step Process for Taking Back Leadership.
1) Challenge Others to Move Beyond Just Offering Opinion and Get Involved
Get their skin in the game. If they’re not willing to do the work, have them ship out or help everyone realize they’re not doing their part. This is not so you can make them look bad, but so that you can expose it when they’re not pulling their weight. Constructive honesty, not blame, is the name of the game.
- Refuse to let it sit: Realize that the alternative is for you to do nothing. You can’t sit there and try to avoid even the appearance of evil. You need to be a force for honesty.
- Refuse to doubt unless there’s a logical reason to doubt. And if you’re wrong, you can always say you’re sorry and explain what you thought and why. But it’s okay to put pressure on people. Just do it respectfully.
2) Be Insensitive to Character Attacks, So You Can Move Forward
If you’re decisive, people will call you “insensitive.” If your eye is on the goal, they’ll call you “arrogant.” There’s just no way to please everyone.
- If people want to attribute motives to your actions, put the burden of proof on them. For instance, if someone calls you a racist for voting for Trump, ask them for better evidence. If they accuse you of being a Communist for voting for Obama, ask for the same thing.
- This can be hard, since political players will try to deflect on you that you’re the jerk and your motives are to “blame.”
- Also realize that you may actually be just trying to blame. Your motives might be bad. That’s something you need to deal with, but you can’t let it stop you in what you’re doing, if what you’re doing is good.
Only listen to people who are out for your growth. Don’t take character advice from people who are at war with you, even if they’re smiling.
3) Be Proactive in Making Decisions and Suggestions
Your proactivity, even when the decision isn’t yours, will prepare you to make better decisions.
- Keep decisions clear.
- Keep decisions simple.
Don’t stop making decisions. Make the plan and make the judgment. And don’t be right all of the time.
If you want to accomplish much as a leader, you’ll need these habits. It could be awkward at first, but if you trust your own judgment, you’ll be able to do more with less time. And you’ll have people who can follow you because of your simple, clear decisions and your ability to take the heat when your decisions don’t work out.