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Beware of Fear-Based Decision Making

The worst decisions I’ve ever seen (mine included), and the worst courses of action I’ve seen plotted (mine included), have come about because of fear-based decision making. More specifically, because of the fear of an outcome, rather than the clarity of an objective. 

What I mean by that is, a lot of people hold on to certain ideas and principles as if losing those things would be the end of their lives. As such, they make some somewhat irrational decisions because they are afraid to lose something that they have. 

This is an offshoot of the whole, ‘Because we’ve always done it this way’ attitude that I see in a lot of companies. 

People don’t necessarily know why they’ve done things in a certain way forever. They just know that having to change their methods would be a huge paradigm shift that they don’t want to tackle, and they’re afraid of what it might mean for their job if they do. 

This is something that we’ve talked about in a lot of other articles on this blog. Ultimately, a lot of the fear-based decision making that I see at companies revolves around people being afraid that a change will make them lose their job or make them less important. 

Or people are afraid because they don’t know what the end result of the change will look like, so they don’t want to do it. That lack of vision makes people fearful. And the types of decisions that are made in a fear-based economy are often short-sighted. 

Looking back at some of your own decisions, why were those decisions made? You know, the ones that were costly, dumb, and had absolutely nothing to do with the strategic vision you had. Why did that happen? 

It’s one of those things that I like to coach people through. Sometimes you need to embrace the fear. 

Understand that there’s always going to be change. Understand that the one constant in life, let alone business, is change. 

And instead of focusing on how this change might affect your position going forward, I coach people to think about how to make themselves invaluable. Regardless of where you go, how do you channel your insecurities or your energy into being the best possible team player and resource regardless of position? 

Versatility is an important thing for people to get a grip on. Recently, I’ve been talking a lot with one of my colleagues about the fact that, in order to be a great leader, you really need to be a great follower. Good generals never become good generals by being bad soldiers. 

It’s important to understand different positions on a team and how everybody should interact to make the team better, to make the goal more achievable through teamwork. 

A lot of that sort of activity – learning the different roles, learning to be a good team player, and actually applying yourself to goals that benefit the organization as a whole rather than just yourself or your career – is counterintuitively really fulfilling, and just makes you a better and more invaluable resource. 

When it comes from a leadership level, fear-based decision making can be even more damaging in the long run to an organization. 

This leads to some of the other things we’ve previously talked about, like making decisions from a change management perspective that don’t lead to the adoption of the software that you spent millions of dollars on in the first place. 

Fear-based decision making while implementing new software may lead to putting in some of the features, but not all, that will actually make people’s lives better, not to mention accomplish the work you’re trying to do. And that sort of fear-based decision making becomes really, really costly. 

I think that a lack of visionary leadership at the top causes those things to happen more often. A visionary leader who looks at all the different decisions under them and understands what the key goal is can mitigate some of those things. 

What I’m getting at with this idea is that much of the fear-based decision making I’ve seen happens because there’s no visionary leadership at the top. 

Get clear on your objective to save yourself and your people a lot of uncertainty and the hassle that comes with it.

Love, Tim


P.S. – Nothing removes uncertainty like input from someone on the outside who can help you and your team manage the fear that comes with change. If you’re preparing for a big shift within your enterprise, get in touch with us.