During my nearly three decades in executive leadership I felt my primary responsibility was to make decisions. I described my role as clearing the rocks off the path so the rest of the organization could move forward as expediently as possible. More often than not, the “rocks” were choices that someone had to make. Many times the better decision was not clear, but even the lessor decision was better than indecision. So my role was to say, “Let’s go this way.”
Over time I learned that there is a dynamic continuum between making a quick decision now verses waiting until more information is available that will enable a better decision. If the consequences of a poor decision are small, I make a quicker decision. If the consequences of a poor decision are great and if more information is forthcoming, I postpone the decision. In between these points along the decision continuum are decisions that can be made tentatively. That is, we agree to move in a certain direction and as we go we watch to see if that direction is confirmed. If it is not, we agree ahead of time that we will adjust as more information becomes available.
One of the goals for my recent trip to Zimbabwe was to test the idea of launching a leadership conference in Bulawayo and Harare. This idea was hatched during my previous trip in November 2012 and seemed to be gaining momentum. However, I desired to find more local enthusiasm for the idea before fully committing to it. Throughout the trip, especially the first half, I regularly discussed the idea. I was surprised that most of the people I talked to were not enthusiastic about a conference. One lady exclaimed, “It is rubbish.” A leading pastor and businessman said he would support the idea, but could not get personally involved. Others felt the timing might be off. My conclusion was that the idea did not have as much support as I initially thought and, therefore, I have ceased promoting it.
The decision about helping to facilitate a leadership conference originated at a meeting in Zimbabwe. The first several people with whom I shared the vision responded enthusiastically. This led me to presume that it was a felt need. However, I realized that my “research” was with a very small sample and I wanted to gain confirmation from a larger segment of the population. I’m glad I did not charge ahead with my first conclusion. If I had, I would have been frustrated by an unenthusiastic response.