Decision Angst

Decision Angst by Dr. Robert Gerwig

Photo by Author

Looking at the menu, the decision was easy. “I’ll have the ‘breakfast skillet’ please!” … Maybe it’s because I’m my father’s son. Maybe it’s because I rarely have a “traditional” breakfast. Maybe it’s because … well, whatever the reason, I love breakfast so the choice was easy. E-A-S-Y.

Recently, while at one of my new favorite haunts, A Café, I ordered the breakfast skillet. You see, there really wasn’t much of a choice. Sausage, bacon, eggs, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, grease. It was a slam-dunk!

I had stopped by A Café ostensibly for internet access, but it didn’t hurt that they have impeccable service, great food, and serve breakfast all-day. Yep, ALL-DAY! So I ordered the “breakfast skillet” and ate every bit of it as I rationalized that I’d swim an extra mile at the pool later in the day (while I did swim, I didn’t swim the EXTRA mile I’d kidded myself about earlier). Regardless, the decision was easy and breakfast was wonderful!

Unfortunately, not all decisions are so easy. Many are Complex. Difficult. Untimely. Frustrating. … There are, on occasion, decisions that cause angst. Why? Because there’s not an optimal answer. No win-win. The decision can be forced on us by outside forces, like the government or a corporate headquarters. Though we’d like to be in full control, many (ok, most ALL) of us are not.

There are several decisions that I’ve been faced with recently that fall into this category. Circumstances (and/or key stakeholders) dictate a response, a decision. Yet, though I rack my brain and seek a great win-win solution, no easy answer appears. These are tough decisions requiring tough choices. No “breakfast skillets” here!

Did I mention that I’ve sought advice and counsel from close friends, family, work colleagues (& teams), the Bible and prayed about it? In some cases, answers emerge. Compromises develop. Solutions are created. In other cases, nothing. A big fat zero. Goose-egg! I’m required to make a decision (no deferral! no passing the buck!) and yet no great solution has been crafted. Ugh!!!

Here’s my best advice to leaders during times like this (when there is no “breakfast skillet”):

  1. Ensure the decision (the problem) is well-defined
  2. Get the best, most-relevant information
  3. Make the decision
  4. Communicate the decision clearly to others impacted
  5. Move on and don’t waver

By the way, I’m preaching this message to myself at the moment as well. Why? Because, as an idealist, though it ain’t gonna happen, I want to please everyone. And while I know that intellectually in my head, the emotions in my heart don’t wanna accept it.

How do you make tough decisions that don’t have easy, win-win solutions?

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

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