Doing the Right Thing


Someone asked me, how do you make the right decision, each and every time.

Well in reality, this isn’t possible.

You can only make the decisions you think are right – at that time, and time will tell whether they were ultimately correct or not.

Sometimes we need to make decisions when we are not in possession of all the facts, and in these circumstances, we need to make a decision based on what we know.

Ideally, we would wait until we know more, but often this isn’t possible.

Sometimes we just have to trust our gut instinct and make a decision.

In these situations we need to monitor progress closely, in order that we can change our decision, if it proves to be incorrect.

One of the worst things we can do is, to stick with a wrong decision, because we feel that changing it would make it look like we have made a mistake.

Well, we have, and the best thing we can do is, correct it as quick as possible.

In my opinion, sticking with the wrong decision and not admitting you got it wrong shows much more weakness than correcting an incorrect decision.

It actually takes more courage to admit you got it wrong and people will respect you more for that than they will for sticking with an incorrect decision.

This doesn’t mean that we should change tack if the going gets tough, that’s not what I mean at all. In those circumstances we need to keep going.

However, if the decision is clearly wrong, then the sooner we correct it, the sooner we can start to make good progress.

This is probably one of the toughest areas of leadership as we need to be comfortable even though we are vulnerable.

I have had several situations where I have made the wrong decision, one time I had to choose between two of my staff to take the lead on a critical project.

I had to choose between a Bob who had a good track record and had strong knowledge of the product we were implementing, and a Susan who just got the job done every time, but lacked experience of the software we were implementing.

The business had a preference for the Susan, but I overruled them, as I felt we needed someone with strong product knowledge in the lead.

Initially the project went well, but the closer we got to the deadline the tighter the project became. There were some concerns from the Business as to whether we would make the go live or not.

Up to that point I had backed the Bob and given him my full support, but as we got down to the last two months it became clear to me that we were not making the required progress and that we were going to be late, unless we made a change in the leadership and made that change right now.

I spoke with Bob, told him my concerns, and that I wanted to bring Susan in to take over the final stage of the project, but that I wanted to keep him involved as we needed his product expertise.

He wasn’t happy, but had little choice but to accept. I also told him that Susan would have full control, and authority to make whatever changes that were needed to get this delivered on time.

I spoke with Susan, told her I had gotten it wrong, explained to her I would like her to take over, and that I would explain it to the Business. I also told her that I wanted to keep Bob involved, but that she had 100% control.

She was prepared to take over, and still thought it was possible for us to make the deadline.

Next I informed the Business, they were happy that I had made the change, however they did question why we hadn’t done it earlier.

I just had to admit that I had gotten it wrong. But now we need to make the change, we still had enough time to get it delivered.

Ultimately we got the project delivered, for sure my credibility took a bit of a hit for getting the initial decision wrong, but I also got some credit for correcting it before it was too late.

How about you, how do you make decisions when you don’t have all the information?

Are you willing to change direction when you think you might have got it wrong?

Tell me about a decision that you got wrong and how you dealt with it.

Gordon Tredgold

Leadership Principles