Recently I became acquainted with a leader serving an interim position.
“Interim” positions are always difficult, both for the organization as well as the person filling the temporary role.
Leading in the Moment
I have been an interim leader twice in my career, and so I fully appreciate the transient-feel of the role. By definition, the person must keep things going and serve as a leader in the moment, yet very few interim leaders I have known feel comfortable enough to make a l decision impacting long-term on the basis that the assignment is short-term.
I was the opposite:
While I was “interim,” I felt a strong responsibility to act decisively and make decisions that would impact short and long-term gains, but most “Interims” I have known do not feel this way.
A Wobbly Interim
My recent acquaintance is one such leader. So far, 100% for 100%, when a decision has come up or just before a final deadline, I have been on the sidelines watching the Interim choke, hyperventilate, paralyze, and hold up progress while everyone looks in bewilderment for a reason for such a slow-down.
This person shares strong opinions openly, a range of criticisms (some that have improved certain areas exponentially), and strong views about nearly everything—even pop culture. Technically he has most of what is needed for the role, and when he is focused on an area that area gets an enormous amount of valuable support.
All of this and yet I haven’t seen any real leadership-level decision come about, at least not without a painful journey by all who surround him.
We all know this type of person. And he is not the first I have encountered. So it got me thinking: “Why?”
What Drives a Decision?
I chuckle at the sound of “making a decision.” I joke that it is really about “concluding a decision,” if that makes any sense at all. There are so may things that go into the process of decision-making, and the study of this topic could keep anyone up for days.
Just Bing “The Anatomy of a Decision” and you will see what I mean.
Each resource always mentions the various steps to decision-making, from gathering information to assessing various outcomes, blah blah blah.
Case in Point
The one I like the most, though, is from Fordham Law Review (1984) where Judge Irving R. Kaufman takes on the decision-making topic in a most interesting fashion.
If you look at Judge Kaufman’s time as a Federal Judge for the United States, he was involved in some of the most interesting cases in the 20th century, from the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg case to his rejection of the government’s attempt to deport musician John Lennon. Most of us will never know the pressure of making a decision at that level.
Most of us will never make decisions at that level, either.
And even more of us will never think too long about how we might make a decision or how much will go into it: we either make one, stall out, or reluctantly finally get around to it.
Easier Said Than Done – For Some
Sure, some would argue that a simply Myers Briggs will help us (face it, some are more comfortable with making decisions than others), but the truth is that decision-making is far more than just a matter of innate preference for closure or commitment, as Myers Briggs or any Jung-type assessment would suggest.
Judge Kaufman’s decisions, for example, had far-reaching implications—far more than the ones we are generally up against each day: whether an inexpensive training should take place, or if a meeting of senior leaders should include financial business analysis, or what to eat for lunch, for example.
Then how do you do it?
4 Ingredients in Making Decisions
Of all the resources I have reviewed, and years in my own decision-making (and sometimes decision-deflecting) tenure, four items remain steadfast for decisions, good or bad.
I have marginalized these common items to a fault, but you will get the gist:
Good or bad, the starting point of a decision is what you know and the best decisions are based on hard cold unbiased facts and data points. Period.
This is related to what you do with the facts after you review them, and it is largely based on who prepared the facts, who is telling you the facts, how you like the facts, and whether you believe in them. This is also when confidence builds up or shuts down. This is the crisis point of decision-making and usually when leaders (or anyone) realizes whether he or she is up for the task.
3) Guidelines or Governance
After the facts are interpreted, we often have guidelines or governance that will help us along the way… and sometimes not so much. If we interpret that a project will be late based on all the facts, various project rules will require us to escalate immediately. Black and white, yet not always done for a number of reasons. This goes to the next item:
Defined in The Free Dictionary as “the state or quality of mind or spirit that enables one to face danger, fear, or vicissitudes with self-possession, confidence, and resolution; bravery.” Yes, leadership always goes back to Courage, doesn’t it? And when all is said and done, when it comes to decisions (particularly the difficult and ethically based ones), this is really the one that will galvanize what people remember the most.
So what are some of your thoughts of recent events around the globe? How do leaders around the world make decisions? What are the basis points for your decisions? I would love to hear your thoughts!
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