My late father-in-law was a diplomat. He was happy to share snippets of wisdom from time to time. One year, he told me that for several years he had observed me to be someone who was inclined to make decisions rather quickly. This tendency then almost certainly required me to take some form of corrective action once it became clear that everyone wasn’t completely bought into the solution I had decided upon.

I agreed with him, accepting that it was not a very effective way of influencing a group of people who all had their own agendas, motives and priorities.  I found myself blaming my military training for this – recounting the mantra drummed into us whenever we found ourselves “under fire” or in contact with an enemy.

My father-in-law then gave me some of the most valuable advice I have ever received – not only for running a business but also in my capacity as a coach and mentor to others. He said:

“When you have a decision to make, always remember that you actually have two decisions: your first is… when do I need to make my decision?  Your second is… what is my decision ?”

Interesting, I thought. This is directly counter to the advice I received as an Army Officer, when “speed of thought” and “prompt action” were actively encouraged, praised and rewarded. 

My father-in-law went on to say:

you will often find that by appearing to DO NOTHING you will allow a solution to emerge, and therefore  your second decision becomes a much simpler one”

In today’s frenetic business world, where news channels and global businesses operate 24 hours a day, it is very easy for leaders to be drawn into a “fire fighting” mentality. Often being hit by wave after wave of text, email, and social media comment we can be made to feel sometimes that we are “under fire” and so it’s understandable that we act more quickly than we really need to. 

By reacting quickly to a situation but then having to adjust a decision afterwards, we can create confusion, lack of cohesion and poor morale.  Performance suffers as a result and then the cycle continues.   

If you really want to save lives (figuratively speaking) dare I suggest that by taking a bit more time to stop, think and gather opinions before making decisions, you might stand a better chance of achieving what you want to in the long term. You might also take those around you with you first time. 

I call this the two decision rule – and it all starts with a pause.

Tim Richardson,
Black Isle Group Founder
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