Workplace decision-making often reminds me of a "Peanuts" comic
strip I saw where Lucy and Charlie Brown were discussing their New Year's
resolutions. "I'm going to be a changed person next year," Charlie tells
Lucy. "That's a laugh," Lucy replies. "You'll be wishy-washy." "Well,"
Charlie says defensively, "One day I'll be wishy and the next washy."
I once worked for a boss who was a master of Charlie Brown decision making.
One day she'd give a "definite maybe;" the next an "indefinite perhaps."
But most of the time, it was "I'll think about it and get back to you." Of
course, she never did and no amount of follow-up produced an answer. I came
to realize there was a black hole in her desk where decision requests were
put. Usually time ran out on the issue, the opportunity passed or
no-decision was rendered. Her staff felt thwarted and frustrated.
Later I discovered it was just as frustrating to work with as to work for
these wishy-washy maybe-people. Intertwined projects, assistance or
information needed from other departments, and common company goals, mean
dependence on others to accomplish our work responsibilities. Having to
deal with indecisive maybe-people in a critical role or on a team means
Maybe they're afraid to make a decision; maybe they're lazy; maybe they're
overwhelmed; maybe they're incompetent; maybe they can't decide. Whatever
the reason, results are reduced.
Like the Scottish proverb says, "Maybe's a big book." So if you want to be
winning at working, it's a book you don't want to read or to use. At least
not for long. It's one thing to use think-time to make the best decision
you can and another to let a decision happen by default because you never
got around to making your own.
In twenty years in management I learned it's better to hear a quick "no"
and move on to other options, projects, or opportunities than wander in the
land-of-maybe where little can be accomplished. In many workplaces "maybe"
has become the diplomatic, politically correct way to say "no." So, the
sooner you decide if that applies to your situation, the sooner you can
move to plan B and get results.
However, the problem with too many maybes is not limited to those we need
decisions from. We're all decision makers no matter our role. There are
teammates, clients, customers, family or friends you owe information to,
responses to, decisions to. The difference in how you decide will leave its
mark. Gordon Graham puts it this way, "Decision is a sharp knife that cuts
clean and straight; indecision, a dull one that hacks and tears and leaves
ragged edges behind it." Want to be winning at working? Cut clean. Be decisive.
© 2005 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
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Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, small business owner, and on-line instructor. Visit www.nanrussell.com or contact Nan at firstname.lastname@example.org.