13 Ways Leaders Make Dumb Decisions
Dumb is easy at the beginning and painful in the end.
The future depends on today’s wise decision.
13 ways to make dumb decisions:
- Ignore the strengths, weaknesses, and passions of teammates. Birds don’t swim and fish don’t fly. It doesn’t matter what you decide when decisions outstrip capacity or competence.
- Make options black or white choices. Either/or decisions are boxes in your mind. Rather than saying “or” explore “and.” How can you create exceptional by bringing options together, for example?
- Fear looking weak, wrong, or dumb. Image-preserving and ego-protecting lead to foolishness. Fear makes you dumb. Be curious with courage.
- Go with your gut. You may feel your decision is smart, but what are you missing? Decisions based on unchallenged feelings are self-indulgent disasters waiting to happen.
- Go with your first inclination.
- Confirm assumptions after decisions are made. Dumb decisions always have justification.
- Seek input from those who don’t share your values. Diversity is powerful in most areas, but not when it comes to values.
- Lose sight of the big picture.
- Listen to dreamers when you should listen to doers. Ask dreamers what could we do? Ask doers how can we do it?
- Listen to doers when you should listen to dreamers. Begin the decision-making process with dreamers; end it with doers.
- Repeat the past without evaluating past results. Are you really getting the results you want or are you just addicted to being busy? Wisdom for the future begins with rigorous evaluation of the past.
- Listen to the same people. Your current team is awesome, but every team benefits from new perspectives. Expand your relationships or you’ll repeat the past.
- Wait for 100% certainty. It’s too late if you’re absolutely certain.
What are the factors in making dumb decisions?
Dan, Pay attention to the “big picture” jumps out, we tend to dwell on minor things and by pass what counts most, the little things do count, but don’t let them distract you from the main purpose of the event, or project.
Thanks Tim. Every conversation about projects or events moves away from the big picture and toward the narrow or small. Frankly, it has to. But, leaders need to all circle back to purpose. So why are we doing this? Why is it important? How do you fit in?
Yes everything has to fit in, with out all the pieces it will not work. We do everything because it needs to be done or the project is poor representation, if we do not do everything pristine!
I have to make it work come bleed or blister, because the customer is important and they want it! That does not mean we or they won’t bend either. Expectations are high and so are the results.
Given your great list plus all the things we KNOW supervisors and managers SHOULD be doing, the only quotes that seem relevant are:
“A Desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” (John LeCarre)
“Nothing made sense, and neither did anything else.” (similar to Joseph Heller)
I mean, really?
“When I want your opinion, I’ll give it to you.” (Samuel Goldwyn of MGM)
Thanks Scott. You’re making me smile this morning. Love your quote, “Nothing made sense, and neither did anything else.” It’s my new life manta. 🙂
I’ve been operating within that system for a dozen years, especially when dealing with governmental organizations but sometimes with the private sector. (Like my DVR with Charter that has a harddrive AND a port but the port is not connected so you cannot keep any of the things you saved by storing on an external drive when the cablebox fails — you loose EVERYTHING.)
You can still get mad, but at least you anchor to understanding that nothing is expected to be making any sense…
Good decisions permit “course corrections” –some built in – ‘We’ll put a checkpoint two weeks into this to understand if we’re progressing as expected” but more important flexibility for the unforeseen… inevitably there are always factors that were unanticipated when the plan was developed. Understanding when/how/if to move on these unforeseen items is really the artistry of a good/great leader. Being confident in the credibility of the plan is a strength, but sticking to it with feet in cement is a weakness!
Caution if the plan is “yours”, ego can play a dangerous role!
Thanks Ken. Those who can’t adjust course can’t arrive at their destination.
The tension between adapting and putting your head down and pushing forward is a challenging tension to navigate. Thanks for highlighting it.
Dumb decisions #14 – Be rigid and stick to your plan after it’s been implemented no matter how badly it’s burning to the ground. Great leaders admit their plans are nothing but fancy guesses and adjust to the realities and complexities of human implementation with a yoga like flexibility.
Thanks James. Looks like you and Ken are tracking together. “Fancy guesses” zing! That last sentence is powerful.
Decisions based on emotion, overestimation and without any assumption are dumb decisions. People have different tendency to justify their decisions. Many people justify their decision by their immediate outcomes. Many justify by their long term view. Some decisions are good at some points and become bad at another time. And in such cases, it is the time that makes it good or bad. But the fact is that, we have to make some calculations or assumptions before making decision. People get very much influenced by external factors. They deviate from their potentials and often look for short gains. They take decisions and even though they get satisfied initially, they repent later. The point is, decision making is more of a science and less of an art. However, opposite is also true. Many people make lot of calculations in making decisions. Many people just go with their guts and take bigger steps. They may face struggle but shine later. I think, decisions are the matter of gathering sufficient information, analyzing, understanding self capability and taking steps. Decision making is more of an execution rather than only planning.
I agree. We start with assumptions based upon what information we have, analysis of the information and understanding our capabilities – then we adjust when reality sets in. – J
There are also HUGE issues of perception. Even smart people see different things. Daniel Kahneman has an excellent book on thinking, called, “Thinking, Fast and Slow” which gets into a lot about information processing, brain consumption of energy required for deeper thinking, etc.
A key point he makes is, “What you see is all there is.”
The issue is that we tend to sort quickly and without putting much energy into processing all but the first thoughts unless the situation appears to warrant that. We generally choose to NOT generate a lot of “considered alternatives.” Tools like mind mapping and group brainstorming and “Devil’s Advocate” tend to all enrich the decision-making process.
Well said, Dr. S.
#3 & 4 resonate with a prior post on power and needing to remove ego from the management and work equation. And #9 & 10 are wonderful points alone. As leaders, we must be open to roads less traveled and yet we must meet organization goals. Striking that balance is a true art and quality of a fine leader.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Your last line nails an important assumption that I made. Decisions lead to execution. Execution is the whole point. Sadly, we fall into the trap of believing that making a decision IS execution. But, clearly it isn’t.
Good morning, thanks for all especially 4, 11, 13. I used to love to go with my gut and sometimes I still do. But now if I hear a voice from my gut I do a reality check – is it the voice of experience whispering or the sound of my preferences and biases whining for attention?
Thanks Catie. So, go with your gut when it says you better test your assumptions and confront possible bias. 🙂
Courage is what I have and I tend to do #11 with no thought of the result from the past. Now, I wonder if I keep on repeating the same mistake?
Thanks Seeker. It’s odd, but my experience indicates that I kept making the same mistake and called it determination. Ouch.
Not quite sure what you mean by being curious with courage?
Thanks Louise. My idea is it takes courage to risk looking dumb by asking questions. Glad you asked.
Dreamers are good but unless they can convert their dreams into advancement and maintain or exceed present production then an employer can’t afford to keep them.
I would hope that a General in the heat of battle wouldn’t ask any of his soldiers what their dreams were and if they had an alternative way to get things done. I grew up on a dairy and tobacco farm in North Carolina. It was very plain what our work was for the day and we did it to put food on the table. I’ve had real struggles in my life being a supervisor. I expected everyone to do their job very well and on time. Guess what they didn’t and I didn’t understand why.