Dates and Marriages for Leaders

This week, I’ve blogged about decisions you make as a leader. Some are like tattoos: they are permanent and must be handled with great care. Others are like earrings: they are not as permanent and you can change them out easily. We must give them appropriate time and effort. Yesterday, I mentioned the Haircut Principle: some actions are like “haircuts” for leaders—you have to fulfill them yourself. You can’t delegate a haircut.

Today—I want to continue the conversation by talking about decisions that are like going on a date and those that are like a marriage. Stop and think about this.

Many of your decisions are smaller and frequent. Treat them like going on a date. You don’t have to give loads of thought to them; they require some planning, but you don’t need to sweat it like you would a marriage decision. Marriages—well, they require a person to do lots of planning, prioritizing, weighing several options and spending time both thinking and talking to others. Why?  Because they’re an important and (supposedly) permanent decision. My advice?

  1. Go on lots of dates before you plan a marriage. As a leader—make lots of mini-decisions that lead to a maxi-decision. Try things out. Make smaller choices and see if they inform the larger choice.  Jim Collins calls this “shooting bullets before you shoot cannon balls.”  In other words, try lots of easier actions to find the target you wish to hit, before investing the effort to shoot a huge cannon ball.
  2. Don’t worry as much about the “dating” decisions as you do the wedding decision. There are many of those “dates” for every one marriage. Once you are ready for the big “marriage” decision that’s all important and likely permanent, be sure you follow this checklist:
  •  Write down the problem you wish to solve.
  • Jot down all the options you’ve considered for solutions.
  • Put a task force together of creative and wise people.
  • Do your homework.
  • Talk to outsiders about it, to get a fresh perspective.
  • Do a “mental walk through” of each option to envision the outcome.
  • Make a list of the risks and the rewards of each option.
  • Set a deadline if others are waiting on your decision.

In our world today, options are plenty. Information is everywhere. Leaders can get paralyzed by so many decisions and so much data to weigh out. May I suggest you use these simple metaphors as you choose.

  • Take time with the tattoo decisions. They are permanent.
  • Make the earring decisions quickly and don’t fret over them.
  • The choices that are like “dates”—make lots of them and see how they feel.
  • The choices that resemble a marriage, be sure you’ve done on lots of dates first before you choose.

How do you make decisions as a leader? Any “rule of thumb” you follow?

Dates and Marriages for Leaders