Leadership procrastination

Five ways to break leadership procrastination

When you’re a leader, it’s usually because you’re great at getting others to believe in you. Sometimes it’s because you’re good at making decisions. Some decisions are of course difficult. In the hierarchy of things to decide on in any business, as the leader yours are the decisions that have the potential to break the company.

Great decision-making isn’t about always being right, it’s about being prepared to make a decision even if it’s wrong, having prepared to make a correction if necessary.

Procrastination happens when you know you have to make a decision but aren’t prepared to reverse it if you’re wrong. And you use all sorts of excuses to defer and delay: I’m not ready, the team’s not ready, we don’t have the money yet so let’s just wait for the next big invoice to be paid, I can do it myself, the team can do it, there will be another one along in a minute.

Procrastination can also be useful for creating an artificial shortage of time, leading to hyper-focused delivery under pressure. Happens all the time with pitches for example. But when it comes to the big stuff you need to sort out with your business – strategic planning, creation of a succession team, a new market proposition, sale in a year’s time – this kind of tactical procrastination is just an excuse. We know this, yet we do it.

I work with leaders of fantastic companies all the time. Most are amazing at decision making. All have their lapses into procrastination. So here are the five questions you need to ask yourself if you find yourself deferring a decision on the really big stuff, the stuff that will make your company thrive, or languish.

Do we know what we need to do?

This one’s easy. Do your research, and line up your two best options.

Will we really do it on our own?

If this is the sort of thing that requires outside help to treat it as a deliverable project, get you going in the right direction, or hold your feet to the flames, then this is the acid test. If you haven’t done it already, you need outside help.

Can we get someone in to do it?

If so, who’s the best in the business, has the best references, has done it before, can nail it for you?

What is the price of getting it done?

In the grand scheme of things what is the value you’ll get and what is the price it will cost to get it – and what’s the ratio in the short term and in the long term? If the project fee looks high but the value delivered is huge, think about it proportionately. Great companies charge by the value they deliver not by the hour. (And incidentally so should yours.)

What is the cost if we don’t get it done?

And finally what is the cost if you don’t do it? Four more years? Two million less? Running aground on the next shallows? Never making your mark? Value has both positive and negative axes. Make sure you have enumerated both.

Ask yourself these five questions. Then stop procrastinating, make the big decisions and let the next phase start now rather than waiting for it to happen on its own.

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