Tough decisions & conversations.

Rarely would the majority of people say that they look forward to making difficult decisions. Which are inevitably followed by either having a conversation or sending a written communication to someone. However, making tough decisions and then following through with them are a part of life, but how do we become better at doing this?

This morning I was faced with making one of these tough decisions. I didn’t sleep well last night because my mind was running through all of the different scenarios about how the decision would impact me and my family. I also thought about whether I was making an emotional decision, or one based on being rationale. The decision I was making slanted towards it being a highly emotional one, so I knew I needed to be honest with myself. Ultimately to not have my emotions win out in favor of my decision potentially negatively impacting me. Or worse, having me regret my decision.

My decision ended up siding with being practical, and what you might consider to be the more rationally based decision. However, I can’t tell you that I necessarily feel better having made the decision I made. Although, from a timing perspective, I know in my heart it is the right decision. One that will allow me to be more focused on all of the opportunities and life circumstances facing me right now. I’m sharing this scenario with you because I value being authentic, and vulnerable. Although at the same time it can be incredibly intimidating to do this.

If you know me well, you know I’m not the type of person who is easily influenced by others. In fact, just the opposite, as I tend to have a strong belief and conviction for trusting my gut when I’m making decisions. Although what was different about this decision, was that I truly needed to listen and factor in other people’s input, which I knew would give me the perspective that part of this emotional decision was going to potentially cloud. I’m glad I did, as I know that doing something uncomfortable is what will benefit me the next time I’m in this scenario.

When I think about another scenario involving making a tough decision and having an even more difficult conversation, I had one of these yesterday. Perhaps it was getting through successfully to the other side of that situation which allowed me to navigate my other challenging decision this morning. I think it did, and the point is that yesterday’s scenario was part of being the foundation I needed to help me this morning.

Of course, I realize everyone faces difficult decisions on a regular basis. The challenge is how to best prepare ourselves to make it to the other side of the scenario? Without regret, and in fact feeling good about how the situation played out.

As a leader in any situation (e.g., family, business, sports team), you are continuously having to make decisions which you will likely agree that are not all easy to make. I recall speaking with one sports coach leader who told me about a decision he had to make to suspend his best player from his team a few weeks prior to their team going into the final playoffs. Generally, everyone will agree that one player does not make a team, but one player can have a positive or negative impact on the team. In this case, the absence of this player was going to have a negative impact, because the flow of the team was going to be disrupted at a crucial time when they didn’t need this to happen.

The suspended player did come back to play with the team, but there were many lessons learned from this situation. Both by the player, team members and the coach. Ultimately the team did end up winning the championship, but I’m certain they will never forget how the decisions that the athlete and coach made impacted everyone.

In business, I have seen countless number of leaders have to make gut wrenching decisions about how do they balance growing the business, while having to make headcount reductions. Yes, this may seem counterintuitive, but it happens more often than people outside of hyper growth companies would be aware of. It’s certainly one of the strategies for growth, but the pressure it puts on the team isn’t always favorable or sustainable. However, the leader who has to ultimately make the decision that this is the best course of action, has to make this generally unpopular move at least once in their career.

Although making any decision can be difficult, the communication aspect might in fact be more challenging. Namely because most will agree that getting the communication part of the decision right is critical, and not always easy to do. There is a delicate balance of explaining why you made the decision, what the outcome will be, and how the impact of it is going to affect others. Sometimes difficult decisions can lead to much better scenarios, and generally they should, but we know this isn’t always the case.

Since no one is immune from having to make decisions, and we know that some decisions will be much more challenging than others, below are some suggestions to consider. Both in terms of how to contemplate and decide, and some ways to effectively communicate your decision.

  • I have always benefitted from having a pro and cons list. If I feel that I am going to be biased with one of the columns, I will ask someone who I know can be objective to help me with this exercise.
  • Although having a pro and con list might make it more evident which will be the better decision, when a decision is emotionally charged, it can still be challenging to decide. However, you will need to challenge yourself with being as neutral or reasonable as possible, with the outcome of which decision will serve you or others the best.
  • Keep in mind that there will eventually be relief for you when a decision is made. I can’t promise you that you will feel immediately good about the decision, but at some point, you will have enough hindsight to be able to determine that you made the best decision at that point in time.
  • When you are communicating your decision, it is best to be both authentic and brief.
  • Don’t be tempted to cast any blame or make excuses about why you made your decision. If you do, it will be apparent that you made your decision solely based on an emotional decision, and this isn’t generally going to be in your favor to do so. Of course, there are exceptions.
  • If you can take even a few moments or hours and to sit and contemplate your decision, do so. It will provide you with additional clarity in both the decision itself, and make it easier to express why you made your decision.

The next time you have to make a decision, whether it is an easy or difficult one, I hope the suggestions above will serve to guide and motivate you in feeling good about the method of doing so. I also promise you that although it might not ever be easy to make tough decisions, each and every one will contribute in a multitude of ways to the life you are living.

TAGS: #Decisions #Communication #Leadership #Sportscoach #Teams #Motivation #Toughdecisions #Authentic #Business #Sports

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