Do you ever think about how the decisions you make as a leader affect others? Do you ever consider the far-reaching effects of both the small and large choices that come before you on a daily basis?
As a leader, almost everything you do has a ripple effect on other people both inside and outside of your organization.
Over the years as an ethics expert and speaker, I have tried to find an analogy that would help my clients understand the importance of discernment before making those tough decisions.
It was while watching some kids throw rocks in a pond that I finally came to this realization that decision-making is like throwing a rock in a pond.
No matter how big or small the rock is, water is displaced and it causes a ripple effect.
Likewise, no matter how “big” or “small” the decision is, people are affected by the decisions that leaders make. The key question here is when is the the time for leaders to think about those “ripples” from the decisions they make?
Is it after you’ve thrown the rock? Or is it while the rock is still in your hands?
Decisions and Consequences
Haven’t we all been in the position where a decision needed to be made and proceeded with our natural process to make that decision. And in that process, we think in our own mind that we had “all our bases covered.” But after making the decision we find that there are “ripples” (i.e. consequences) that appeared that we didn’t event think of.
And now we find later that we are the ones being held accountable.
Another reality is if the rock is big enough and you throw it, it may splash up and have the repercussions come back on you. Hasn’t this been the story of the recession? Companies, politicians, and executives in many different industries have made decisions that have adversely affected the entire financial world, especially the 14+ million unemployed in America and many others around the globe.
A Few Leadership Lessons
There are a few lessons here. Check and see where you fit:
1. When a decision needs to be made, hold the rock before throwing it. Hold it until you are certain that first you know what the obvious ripples are. And secondly that you can and will deal with any unforeseen ripples that occur based on your analysis.
2. Don’t let emotions dictate when to throw the rock. Get communal wisdom from trusted colleagues, etc., that are “for you” and get their wisdom. Reason must always control emotions in decision-making.
3. Sometimes you just need to put the rock down and gather more information before picking it up again for a toss. The danger here is that you think too long on it or it stays in committee too long to be really effective.
4. The bigger the rock (the decision, the bigger the ripples, i.e. consequences.) Go slow choose well! Ask yourself, what does my gut,i.e. conscience, intuition, etc., tell me about this? Then do it.
5. It is important to know BEFORE a decision is made, what one’s values are so as to minimize any regret after a decision after it is made or ”the rock is thrown.”
Will these points save you from making tough decisions? No, but they will decrease the odds of making a seriously flawed or outright wrong decision. It’s all about odds. So what are YOU willing to gamble?
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