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Lions and tigers and bears – Oh my!

What are you afraid of? How do I know you’re afraid? It’s because I know how entrepreneurs and leaders get stuck when confronted with tough decisions. If you say, “I’m not afraid of anything,” then answer this question: Why haven’t you made that tough decision that’s been waiting months for you to make? You know, the decision that will have a profound impact on your company. A decision that will stop the bleeding or eliminate obstacles to success. One that will result in significant breakthroughs.

So, what are you really afraid of? What’s the absolute worst thing that can happen if you make those tough decisions? Maybe you’ll be unpopular and upset some people - but you won’t upset everyone. Maybe you’ll lose some customers. Maybe you’ll lose some employees - but was that going to happen anyway? Maybe the extent of your financial crisis will come out in the open - but chances are that most already know. Maybe you’ll blow up the company - but is it headed in that direction already?

Here are the four truths about making the toughest leadership decisions:

  1. The outcome you fear most is rarely as bad you imagined. The simple process of working through a tough decision prepares you for most of the stuff you dread - if that stuff occurs at all. I’m not suggesting that your toughest decisions will be pain- or stress-free, I’m just stating that the resilience of the human spirit to adapt and overcome will prevail. But it can only prevail if you engage. This leads me to truth number two.

  2. Avoiding the tough decisions can be pure agony. One of the Neilisms in my No-Compromise Leadership book states, “Giving into a leadership blockage today gives you a bigger problem tomorrow.” The longer you wait, the more stressful it gets. The longer you wait, the more difficult the solution or change. This leads to number three.

  3. Avoid the tough decision entirely and you’ll get to personally meet those lions and tigers and bears. Tough decisions are easy to obsess over and get bogged down in “what if” mode. Even if your worst fear is that you’ll lose everything, as the leader, making tough decisions is your responsibility. Team members are looking to you to make them - to lead them and show the way. Fail this most basic leadership responsibility and you’ll lose the support and respect of your team. Doing nothing is an open invitation to all of your worst fears.

  4. One-hundred-percent commitment is non-negotiable. You must be committed to seeing through the implementation of your tough decisions. You must be committed to adjusting course when necessary to ensure the intended destination is reached. Quitting is a direct path to the lions and tigers and bears.

I wrote this Monday Morning Wake-Up because too many leaders are so consumed by the potential outcomes of tough decisions that nothing changes. The road to success is not a highway. It’s a complex maze of unexpected detours, potholes and roadblocks. Relish those times when you’re on a clear stretch of road because new twists and turns are just around the bend.

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Neil Ducoff, Founder & CEO of Strategies and author of No-Compromise Leadership

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