Dear Manager,

While I consider the condition of business management in America to be healthy, I’m concerned by the erosion of a crucial management skill that is keeping many individuals and organizations from reaching their full potential. Taken to the extreme, total absence of this fundamental skill would bring American Business to a grinding halt.

What is this skill? What’s missing? American Business needs more managers who can make a decision!

A decisive manager commands respect. Their ability to understand the broad dynamics of their business, think on their feet, and to bring a succinct conclusion, is truly a dramatic sight to behold. It’s unfortunate, then, that many managers either can’t come to a conclusion, or are simply unwilling to do so. Thinking they might not make a good decision, these managers choose not to risk making a “bad decision” in favor of the worst possible alternative: no decision at all.


I’m convinced that in American Business, nine out of ten instances of “no decision” are consistently less productive, and ultimately create greater risk, than a “bad decision.” We’ve all made presentations in person or over the phone to an individual who suggests mild, yet unspecific interest in our proposal. This person is clearly unable to form a conclusion based on the initial conversation. Since we are all good sales people, our next step is to ask the question, “When do you think you will be ready to make your decision?” This is not too much to ask! With a side step to the left, and a few side steps to the right, this person usually comes up with the following, (and very decisive, I might add) conclusion: “I’ll get back to you.”

Clearly, there are decisions that just can’t be made on the fly. Yet, in the fast paced nature of business, I would suggest this is the exception rather than the rule. By now, we’ve all gained enough knowledge about the dynamics of our business to form a thought process that leads to a conclusion. Delaying a decision for its own sake is a crutch and a total disservice to all parties concerned.


Certainly there’s risk in the decision making process. Are decisive individuals any more “right” than others who simply can’t get off the dime? Probably not. I’ve always heard that to be correct 51% of the time in business decisions is to be a success. We’ve all made decisions that, from a Monday morning quarterback’s perspective, were poorly analyzed and or misjudged. I’ll also guess that we’ve never made that identical bad decision twice! If we’ve learned from our mistake, what more can we ask of our staff or ourselves?

One of the first good decisions a strong manager can make is to allow staff members to make decisions relating to their areas of expertise. There’s few things worse than a manager lurking over the shoulder, second-guessing ones decision process. Staff must be empowered to make the best possible decisions with the knowledge at hand. Anything less, and it’s really a direct reflection on management’s decision to hire this individual in the first place! In other words, if they aren’t good enough to make a quality decision, then why would you possibly want them to be a member of your team?

Strong management should consistently challenge their staff to step up to the plate in the decision making process. It’s vital that they understand the significant value they have to the company as a decision maker. Early on, there may need to be discussions regarding the thought process leading to these decisions, but soon the baton of decision empowerment must be passed on to our staff members.

Of course, as managers we need to make or participate in the significant and major decisions relating to our organizations. We must also be made aware of some decisions to avoid being caught flat footed or unaware in the future. This doesn’t mean that we need to know every detail, or make every single decision! In most cases, the decision to delegate many of these issues is the single most valuable one we can make for our organization.

A manager must also be willing to allow his/her staff to come to a conclusion and decision inconsistent with their own. The decision making process is also a learning process. If you break the spirit of the decision maker, you have sent the message that they are ill equipped, or not allowed, to make a decision at all. I’ve learned from experience that, with the test of time, many of my staff’s decisions were better than my own would have been.

We must encourage the decision making process and believe that no one intentionally makes a bad choice from the options available to them. We take pleasure in the good decisions, and we learn from those that aren’t!


Yes, courage is often required in the decision making process. Certainly, we’ve all stubbed our toe and wished that we’d handled a situation differently. We must keep in mind that if all decisions were precise there’d be little (if any) need for management! We must also put ourselves in the shoes of those awaiting our decision in order to fully understand their need for a timely, decisive decision. There’s not one of us who hasn’t walked in these shoes, wondering when or if a decision will come down. We owe those awaiting our decisions nothing less.

I’ve found that the best decisions I’ve made were the ones where I trusted my gut. To take this a step further, the very best decisions that I’ve made from a “gut perspective” would, at the time, have been considered the most obvious! Once your analysis is complete, and you’ve done the gut check, proceed confidently and with full steam.


For a number of years I’ve owned real estate in the Portland area. In the early years I managed these properties on my own. I’d do much of the maintenance, leasing, and field all of the calls personally. With these properties came countless, ongoing, minor decisions that needed to be made to insure proper maintenance and upkeep. For the most part, solving these problems required decisions that added up to less than $100 in actual cost. There was a time when I’d struggle over these decisions, making absolutely, painstakingly sure the maintenance was needed, or that I was getting true value for my money. I finally realized that I was turning my less-than-$100-problem into a $500 enigma by virtue of investing so much time in a protracted decision making process.

I learned two things from this: 1) Hire someone to manage and make the “$100 decisions” that must be made on a day-to-day basis. If you’re afraid to let your staff make a decision on a less-than-$100-problem, why are they there? 2) In business, when a $100 issue lands on your desk, write a check immediately, without question, without cause, (do not pass GO!) and move on to areas and decisions that are consistent with managing the true priorities of your organization.

Personal Regards,


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