A lesson for making decisions

leadership strategy Apr 13, 2018

Recently, I watched the film, The Post, from Steven Spielberg and took some lessons that are crucial insights for any leader. 

Not only do Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks perform extraordinarily well, but they also highlight the dilemma of a serious decision, with two strong alternatives, under great time pressure. In the end, the film is about freedom of the press, but that is not my point here. 

When the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham makes her most important decision with global impact within a few hours (in the end minutes), the same factors you see with every small business decision come into play: diverging interests, uncertainty, and values. 

What can you learn from this for your next decision-making situation? Three things:

  1. Define strong values and your mission! Ms. Graham finally made her decision based on the strong values that had once been defined for the newspaper (e.g., serving the people and not the politicians). Such values can only be invoked if they are clearly defined and if they are truly relevant. What are your strong values that you can always rely on in decision-making?
  2. Weigh the influences correctly! Often, the more pleasant alternative in the short term is preferred to the more difficult, but necessary one, in the long term. What really moves your company forward? To let the team continue as before and to focus on marginal improvements? Or to invest in creating a real winning team culture that takes the company to new levels? That's just an example.
  3. Start executing right away! In the situation of the Washington Post, the decision had to be implemented immediately (within seconds). Only execution creates facts (never the decision). How quickly do you implement decisions, once made? Rule of thumb: Everything not started within 72 hours must be decided again; hence, the decision was a waste.

Watch the film and above all: Put the lessons into practice when you make your next decision. 

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