Flip-Flops Are Only For The Beach

I spent hours building relevant content in the PowerPoint deck and too much time on the unnecessary fancy graphics and animations. But, practicing what I preach in the classroom and based on my favorite FDR quote “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”, the presentation was concise, informative and efficient. It rapidly reached its end with a proposed call to action.

My audience (a client) was the leader of the firm and ultimate decision-maker. Some of his local managers were invited to the meeting. It was well-known among the team that their leader was insecure in making decisions so the managers looked forward to supporting the process.  The team strongly endorsed the concept and the leader ultimately embraced and approved the proposal. He instructed his managers to “spread the word.”

His decision lasted exactly 15 hours.

In the process of spending the next morning advising a different group of subordinates of his decision, two managers spoke out against the proposal and my client then decided to reject the proposal.

A confused staff member from the initial meeting advised me of the change. After breaking through the wall of ignored email and voice messages, I connected with my client), and reminded him of the value of the proposed project, highlighting the benefits and outcomes of the concepts that he found so compelling just the day before. Without commenting on why he changed his mind, my client again made the decision to approve the project.

This time his decision lasted almost two full days.

Flip, flop, flip, flop...

The validity or merit of the proposal is immaterial to this story. So is the recognition that a good leader will reserve his prerogative to change his mind (and should do so if it’s the wrong decision). However, habitual wavering and flip-flopping in the decision-making process is, at best, a risky management style.  At worst, it’s a fatal management flaw.

In this case, it was the beginning-of-the-end for the leader. The rank and file became frustrated by the lack of decisiveness and resolve from the top. Eventually, this sense of defeat trickled down to customers and other constituents who quietly fell away. No ultimatums, no angry break-ups, no negotiations. Just quiet defections. Every leader’s nightmare.

At The Junto Institute, we believe that decision-making is a skill set that can be learned and is essential for effective leadership and a strong organization. The sooner a leader begins working on decision-making, the healthier the company, which is why it’s as relevant for startup leaders as corporate leaders. Peter Drucker knows best in stating, “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”