Be Decisive

People expect leaders to be decisive and to take responsibility for their decisions.

In many sessions I’ve conducted with middle managers these are virtually always cited as essential qualities. Timely and effective decisions are the lifeblood of sound direction and momentum in any organisation. Conversely indecisiveness in leadership breeds frustration, continuing uncertainty, confusion, worry and inefficiency.

Keeping people waiting for decisions that crucially impacts their work, confuses their efforts and contributes to background stress in the team. This is particularly the case where people can see no clear reason for the decision being delayed. Decisions keep things moving and clear the air.

Decisiveness makes sound business sense as well.  In surveys of project delays and overruns, the number one underlying reason cited is delayed decisions. When a project or a business enters crisis and new management is called in, it’s decisiveness that makes all the difference – and often the decisions made are those that could already have been made, which would have prevented the crisis in the first place.

There are five keys to being more effective in decision-making:

  1. Ensure that important decisions are made away from daily pressures. Decisions made in the heat of the moment are rarely the best ones.
  2. Clarify objectives. Once there is clarity regarding long-term objectives, the process of making good decision is a lot easier.
  3. Fallibility.  Accept that not all decisions are right and that not all decisions are necessarily the best ones that could have been made.  You have to be prepared to make up your mind based on the best information available at the time, be prepared to take risks and be quick to learn from mistakes if a particular course of action proves to be unsuccessful.
  4. Communication. If there’s a valid reason why a decision can’t be made it needs to be communicated to the people who are impacted. People mind less when they know the reason why.
  5. Ownership.  Whoever makes a decision must be prepared to take responsibility for it.  Making a decision and then blaming others when it doesn’t work simply breeds fear, politics and stress in an organisation. The same is true if you delegate and then fail to support the decision maker.

Following these simple rules will result in improved business outcomes, better communication and teamwork, higher levels of employee engagement and in reduced stress and a better work-life balance for everyone involved.


To contact Nick Woodeson, please email him at