Does this sound familiar?
“I’ve got back to back meetings, emails coming at me every moment of the day, and with all the projects I have to manage, I don’t have time to do all the analysis required to make an informed decision. As pressure mounts, I often feel I need to either make a hasty (and possibly bad) decision, or put off deciding again for another day.”
Using the above example, you may consider yourself pretty good at being decisive, but you prefer more time to think decisions through carefully. The Birkman Method™ would consider your decisiveness a strength in “thinking” behaviour, with an underlying need for more time with issues of greater consequence. It means you are very good at visualizing possibilities, generating ideas and planning. Your insightful and reflective nature also enables you to gain the support of others—all great leadership traits.
There are times, however, when your need to reflect can degrade into indecision. For example, when you’re being pushed by an action minded, results driven colleague to make a decision. The stress you experience makes you over think — that is, dig your heels in even deeper, over process, and postpone making the decision. You may even start thinking about the worst possibilities and fearing you’ll make a mistake.
Society and the myth of decisiveness
Society perpetuates the message that indecision and leadership don’t appear to belong together. We are conditioned to believe that strong, successful leaders are able to decide on the spot the right course of action. Decisiveness is “right behaviour” and “he who hesitates is lost.” Successful stockbrokers call out confident buy-sell decisions; men and women fighting crime shoot before they analyze; even superheroes jump off tall buildings without consulting anyone.
Fortunately, not everyone is wired to decide in the same manner. Some have character strengths that make them very action-orientated and therefore, prefer to make quick decisions. Others have character strengths that give them a preference for making a decision after they’ve perused additional information or avenues.
Under the wrong conditions, either of these characteristic strengths can become so exaggerated they actually hinder your ability to lead. The action-focused individual becomes so impatient that he jumps off the building too soon (as in the super hero example) or the thinker stands forever trying to decide what to do (and ends up looking weak).
Know your strengths, to decide or not to decide
Great leaders know when to move quickly and proceed with the available information, versus when to take more time and gather additional information. When leaders opt to take more time to reflect, they must also know when to stop.
Self awareness helps you understand and accept the behaviours that drive your ability or inability to move ahead. So ask yourself if any of these strengths characterize your behaviour?
- I like to plan for the future, visualize possibilities, generate ideas, innovate.
- I prefer opportunities to consider options, time for reflection, support when faced with difficult decisions.
If you’ve answered yes to both of the above, you probably prefer a bit more time before making a decision. To feel comfortable with this behaviour, you may want to find ways to meet your needs: e.g. ask for as much advance notice as possible on recommendations; or declare a defined amount of more time, e.g., I’ll let you know tomorrow by 10 am.
Finally, remind yourself that indecision can come from a strength, not a weakness. Your ability to hesitate gives you valuable time to think about the situation. It gives you the chance to gather more information and weigh the facts. The important thing is to not let indecision keep you stuck forever.
The Birkman Method uncovers “Stress Behaviors”. These are your natural reactions to situations that are not comfortable to you. Stress behaviors that can be damaging to relationships and may impact results unless you develop self-awareness for recognizing and managing your strengths to reach your full potential.
Do you find yourself stuck with indecision? Learn More.