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Making Decisions Right

November 30, 2021

Last week someone recommended I listen to a podcast where General Stanley McChrystal was being interviewed about his new book on "Risk".

I’m sure the book is great but I’ll be honest and say I haven’t read it yet.

However, something else struck me during the interview. General McChrystal was asked about strategic decisions that could have been better. Rather than point out failures of other leaders, he instead said it’s the job of a leader to make the best of decisions that have already been made.

It reminded me of something I learned about Jimmy Collins, the former president and Chief Operating Officer of Chick-fil-A

Jimmy Collins used to say, “I’ve made a career not on making the right decisions, but on making the decisions I’ve made the right ones.”

This approach is simple, but insightful. So often people, especially leaders, fall into one of two camps in their approach to decision-making. One group is fixated on intuition, trusting their gut to make the best decision. While the other fully relies on data, analytics, and research to guide them. There is a lot of ink (and energy) centered on the debate between those two approaches. Don’t get me wrong; leaders should focus on making the right decision. However, the fixation with the decision making process, without a focus on executing whichever decision was made, puts too much emphasis on one side of the equation. 

When the decision works out for us, leaders can be prideful, believing it was their good sense that made them successful. Conversely, when a decision is less successful, one might be tempted to throw their hands in the air and lament the “poor decision”.

The reality is that there might not be a right decision or a wrong decision. Or even if there is a correct decision, it shouldn’t be the end of the conversation. 

Collins’s perspective of decision-making is refreshing. He’s saying that we may not know if we made the right decision, but once we’ve made it, we need to do whatever we can to make it work.

Let me be clear. The decisions we make are not inconsequential. It’s important that we use our insights and instincts  to try to make good choices. But at the end of the day, what we do once we’ve made a decision is what matters most.

So the next time you’re faced with a big decision, here’s my advice to you: Once you’ve decided, see the decision through. Don’t waffle. Stick to it. Even if it gets tough, keep going. Push through adversity. Overcome obstacles. Don’t quit.

Making the right decisions is impactful in leadership, but making the decisions right is essential. 


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