Unfortunately, making tough decisions amidst chaos takes practice. In the past, I had a tendency to avoid conflict, put off making difficult decisions and even sugarcoat reality. Those behaviors are of little use when holding a position of leadership.
My experiences in the military, prior to becoming an entrepreneur, have helped me formulate a better perspective on decision-making. But it is never easy. My "wisdom" as a leader has primarily come from getting feedback from a great team, persistence, and learning from failure. And my training is never complete.
Now, I make a rigorous effort to face the tough decisions head on, before they become even larger obstacles. Here are some tips for being a more decisive leader. These go for leaders at all levels, not just at the top.
In the absence of orders, take charge. A great line from the Navy SEAL Creed referencing leadership and decision-making at all levels says, "In the absence of orders, I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations." When tackling the challenges of leadership within an organization, you won't always have someone there to guide every decision. Use the information at hand to make the best possible decision and adjust accordingly.
Stop avoiding those difficult conversations. This was always a big obstacle for me. As entrepreneurs, we have enough anxiety and stress as is. Then as our companies grow, the obstacles become even bigger and our decisions have greater consequences. Whether it's your business partner, a direct report, or even your manager, it doesn't do any good to put off much needed conversations. When we do that, things fester and get even worse. Don't put it off. It won't fix things and it's not fair to the other person.
Make that decision you should have made months ago. As business leaders, we have a tendency to focus on growth and the next big opportunity. We shy away from dealing with decisions that take us away from those more "exciting" activities. Then when we finally face the music, we realize we should have handled the situation a long time ago. Whether it's letting a team member go, firing a client, or turning down an opportunity you know won't be good for the company, do it now. Not tomorrow. Making a decision feels much better than not doing so. And it's better for the company and your team.
Know that most problems are never as bad as they initially seem. Nothing is ever as bad as it seems. Especially if you maintain high levels of emotional maturity and a positive mental attitude. It is all about the perspective you decide to take.
Actively decide to be a better leader. Continually developing as a good leader doesn't just happen. It takes constant personal and professional development, regular feedback from the team, self-reflection, and execution on the feedback received. Success as a leader is a conscious decision. It's our job to earn that role every single day.
Remember that you are not alone. Well, most of the time. The decisions that are ultimately yours to make don't have to come without getting direction and feedback from your trusted advisors. In Navy SEAL Mark Owen's new book 'No Hero,' he tells the story of an Army Ranger Colonel who orders them to hit a target that his team knows is suspicious. The SEALs relay this feedback, advising the Colonel to wait and gather more intel. The Colonel ignores the subject matter experts' advice and commands them to hit the target anyway. As it turns out, it was rigged with booby traps and bombs. They all could have been killed in a split second. You put the team in place, so listen to them.
Make a decision to be positive, no matter what. We also make a conscious decision each day to be positive or negative. Sorry, but as leaders we don't have the luxury of wearing our emotions on our sleeves. Becoming frantic or angry when things don't go your way shows weakness and instability. Slap on a smile, lead the team with positivity, then go home and suffer in silence.
Have a positive mental attitude, have those difficult conversations, make those tough decisions, and keep moving forward. Pretty soon those issues will be an afterthought and you will be looking forward ready to face the next inevitable challenge.