The Scarlet Letter of Indecision

I have observed a unique dynamic that exists in almost every company when there is an obvious business problem that is not solved. This dynamic is the telltale sign of frustration that creeps into the conversations I have with managers. They discuss with me why their leaders are not making obvious decisions to drive business results that the leaders themselves have outlined. Below are several examples I’ve heard over the years:


   • We keep supporting this strategy when clearly it is wrong.
   • The numbers don’t lie, what we are doing is not working!
   • We have the wrong people in key positions.
   • Is anybody listening to what our customers are saying?
   • This just doesn’t make any sense….and so on………


The aforementioned dynamic that I observe stems from complications to otherwise simple business problems that have quite obvious solutions. If left unaddressed, these problems build into major strategic or operating barriers that affect business outcome and profitability. In the long run, these complications will erode the credibility of the company and its business leaders.


There are two steps to this scarlet letter process of eroding leadership and business credibility:


The first scarlet letter – Management is Ignorant of the facts.


Now, this assumption is actually a complement to most leaders and their management teams. The employees’ assumption of ignorance states that their leadership team is intelligent, competent and would not purposefully do anything that would put the company in jeopardy. The funny part is that they will forgive you for not knowing but only as long as you immediately mitigate the issue. However, once they become aware that you understand the problem and have done nothing, you then become branded with:


The second scarlet letter – Management is Incompetent.


I know it sounds harsh but your employees will always give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to obvious problems. Ultimately though, once they are aware that you are aware and have done nothing about it, it is then that your intelligence, leadership and motives come into question. When this happens, the questioning of your leadership, it significantly affects your organization’s ability to execute in a timely manner because now they start to question everything. Metaphorically, it is the time when leaders are naked in front of their employees.


So the solution is simple and (sorry to say) very obvious:  Make a decision and make it now!  If it does not work make another one. You see, the interesting thing is that over decades of working with business leaders, I have never seen an individual branded as incompetent when it comes to making the wrong decisions. The label of incompetence comes from not making the next decision!!!! So if you want to motivate your employees, speed up the actions taking place in your organization and improve your level of success, make a decision and another and another.


Therefore my friend, if issues are present in your business waiting to be resolved and you have not made the necessary decision (let alone any decision), you just need to choose which I you want your organization to brand you with. My hope for you….is neither one.




My goal for this blog has always been two-fold. First, I have the opportunity to share my insights and years of experience with you, the reader. And second, I myself get to hear your thoughts, opinions, experiences, etc. To make this blog a mutually beneficial experience, I would ask that you take the time to post your comments, your questions and your own war stories from your years in the business. Let’s use this blog to generate dialogue on the issues we’ve all faced in our businesses and work together to come to some great solutions.


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Categories: Leadership | Tags: , ,

2 Responses to The Scarlet Letter of Indecision

  1. Steve Heston says:

    Barry, a long overdue response, but you're "spot on," as always.  I'd suggest there's a third "I" (as opposed to the third eye my mom always said she had in the back of her head, but I digress…) and that is "In touch."  That connectedness is what makes a leader confident in deciding — adjusting — deciding, as you prescribe.  As I read your post, I heard it clearly in your voice, and smiled as it so clearly embodies the Crystal Clear mindset.  I am also reminded of the old Geddy Lee / Rush lyric, "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice."  In many companies the need to know every possible angle and outcome leads to the kind of analysis parlysis that causes leaders to "lose" their teams — and once you lose the team, you've lost the season, if not your job as a leader.
    A solid post from a smart dude.  Thanks, man!

    • Barry Moze says:

      Thanks Steve, the price of indecision is very costly for ever business and there are lots of I’s that get hurt from leaders inaction. 

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