Indecision: The Silent Assassin

Indecision lives at the margins. If you have one obviously good route available to you, and one obviously lousy one, then there’s no room for indecision. It’s easy. 

So, indecision thrives when…

  • You have a choice of similarly good, or similarly bad options.
  • You don’t trust the intel you have available.
  • You maybe don’t trust your own experience or judgement.
  • Or there’s conflict, perhaps between two competing imperatives, or an ethical vs commercial dilemma, or even between the apparent facts and your own gut instinct of what to do.

Either way, ‘nothing’ is rarely the best thing to do. Life, and business, just doesn’t work this way…

The Impact of Indecision
The world around us moves quickly. Customer tastes and expectations change. Markets evolve and move on. New technologies arrive and disrupt the status quo.

Whether the indecision is in our own businesses, or in potential customers or strategic partners, a lack of action can mean missed business and opportunities in the short term, and limited options for the longer term. Neither is good.

And indecision is contagious too. People are naturally drawn toward conviction and energy. Conversely, indecisiveness reeks of uncertainty, lack of confidence, and risk. If left unchecked, this will start to infect the attitudes of your employees, your partners and your customers.

Key Symptoms of Indecision (in Yourself or Others)
Even when backed-up with all the logic and intelligent justification in the world, the obvious symptom of indecision is a simple lack of action. 

This may manifest in the form of:

  • Excessive focus on details – Too many questions, and at a level of detail that start to represent barriers to progress, rather than critical ‘Stop / Go’ factors.
  • Repeated non-dependent deferral – No apparent reason for the lack of progress, other than ‘just needing some thinking time’.
  • Longstanding dependent deferral – Waiting for Mañana; some supposedly critical pre-requisite part of the puzzle to come together, or some sign from the universe.

Three Big Steps For Combatting Indecision:

1. Weigh up the facts, and make ‘best-judgement’ decisions…

Gather Your Facts

  • And I mean essential facts; the critical intel you need, to make a ‘Stop / Go’ decision. The test of whether you’re going into too much detail is “Will the answer to this question fundamentally change my decision?” If the answer is “no”, then you’re just creating noise.
  • Be confident enough to ask questions, even apparently stupid ones. You’ll look less stupid asking these, than you will if you make a poorly informed decision.

Keep Perspective

  • Take a moment, cut out the noise, and focus on the issue. Step back; mentally and physically – go for a run, get some fresh air, let your brain do some background processing.
  • Define what the worst outcome could be – Once you know what’s at stake, you may be a lot more comfortable ‘going for it’.

Take Counsel

  • Do take advice if you can; it may give you some perspectives or options you hadn’t considered. 
  • However, remember the apocryphal ‘Fresh Fish For Sale’ story – Ultimately it’s your call, and you will have to live with the consequences. Anyone else giving advice (even the most well-intentioned) will have some vested interest, or more worryingly, it’s just an academic exercise that they can walk away from at any time.

Remember Your Vision

  • One powerful perspective-aide is clarity of objective. If you have a Vision and Goals, you already know where you want to take the business, and you should defer to this compass-heading in times of doubt. Ask yourself “Which option moves me closer to my goal?"
  • Alongside your Vision, you will also need to have Rules…

Set Some Rules

  • Often the right thing to do, is not the easiest thing to do. If Vision is the ‘Where’, then Rules form part of the ‘How’ – How do you want to do business? How do you want to deal with your employees, or your clients? How will you deal with certain recurring situations?
  • Rules are not just about ethics or conduct, they’re about how you respond to every situation or opportunity that presents itself. When I first started out on my own and was working to build my local presence, I set myself a rule that I would ‘never’ turn down a new speaking opportunity. This immediately cut through all my natural excuses and nervousness and the inconvenience of last-minute invites and changed plans. By way of my speaking rule, I had already ‘pre-made’ the decision at a strategic level, so the operational decisions just fell into line.

2. Back yourself, and pursue your decisions with gusto…

Trust Your Instincts

  • Sometimes (maybe even ‘very often’) your gut will just instinctively know what to do. The internal anguish we then often feel is when we’re searching for more logical rationale, or post-justification, of what we already know we will end up doing regardless.
  • So, how about if you just acknowledge that you’re going to make a judgement call? Of course, you should always strive to make informed judgements. But do make them.

Focus On Momentum

  • Indecision is inaction. Focus on moving forward.
  • When considering your options, and the potential pros and cons of each, make sure you include ‘take forever to decide’ on the list. It’s usually the worst thing to do (yet often we fall into it by default) – To quote (I think slightly paraphrase) Gen George Patton “A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow." 

3. Look forwards, and make them the right decisions…

Make It Work

  • Was it Henry Ford who said “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right"? – There’s certainly much to be said for the power of mental attitude. Generally I find, and certainly with small-er businesses, if it’s your decision, and you living with the impact of the decision, and you cleaning up the mess if it goes wrong… you’ll find a way to make it work!

Be Prepared To Fail
…and don’t beat yourself up! – It’s all about experimentation.

  • One of the big differences I often see between big corporate, and small business, culture, is that the big corporates pursue immediate results and tend to stigmatise ‘failure’ regardless of how it has come about. However, where failure is the result of experimentation and learning, then this is a vital part of growth and progress and innovation. 
  • The best and most innovative and nimble small businesses I have worked with recognise the importance of this experimentation-learning cycle and make their big rivals look like lumbering dinosaurs by comparison.

Those three big steps again:

  1. Weigh up the facts, and make ‘best-judgement’ decisions.
  2. Back yourself, and pursue your decisions with gusto.
  3. Look forwards, and make them the right decisions.

Go on, I dare you!

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