The problem most leaders face isn’t being more decisive–it is being informed enough to make a decision. They waffle because they don’t understand the problem or situation, haven’t framed it well or haven’t thoroughly considered the options for addressing it.

Here’s what to do when facing a problem or decision:

First, define it.

Unclear problems cause unclear solutions (the same is true for opportunities). Make sure you can answer: what is the real problem or opportunity here?

To answer that question, follow the resources: how is this situation costing us money or time (in terms of direct or opportunity cost)? Know the difference between an inconvenience (not particularly costly) and a true problem (expensive enough to solve).

Second, look for the any opportunity the problem might represent.

Here’s an example:

As YouTube became really successful, they realized they had a copyright problem. Much of the material on their site was protected and they were obligated (because of lawsuits) to take it down. But the copyrighted stuff drove much of the traffic on the site. The solution: they developed a program that notified copyright holders as soon as their protected material was posted and offered to remove it. The opportunity: they also offered the holders half the revenue from any ads alongside the protected video AND the opportunity to use the video for promotional purposes. Now that program accounts for a third of YouTube’s revenue.

Third, ask who, what and how?

WHO is most informed about the problem or apprised of the situation? Identify them as ask WHAT they perceive the problem to be and HOW they suggest solving it. Having several good conversations will go a long way towards getting the information you need.

Now, generate options. The quicker you come up with a solution the less likely it is the best solution. Look a second or third time at what you could do.

Finally, pick the solution that offers the best long term fix.

Any problem that doesn’t stay solved wasn’t solved correctly to begin with. And no opportunity can be maximized without a great plan.

What do you think is the hardest part of making decisions as a leader? Please feel free to share your thoughts with me on Facebook and Twitter as well as in the comment box below

Are you looking for more ways to improve your leadership? Click on the image below to download 101 essential tips for inspiring leadership.

Mark Sanborn
About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Mark Sanborn graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University. In addition to his work as a business educator and author, Mark continues to be an active leadership practitioner. Most recently he served as the president of the National Speakers Association.

One Response to The Decisive Leader
  1. […] Re-blogged from Mark Sanborn’s Leadership blog […]


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