Making difficult decisions it is our jobOne of the traits of highly successful leaders is the ability to make tough decisions. Many people can identify what should be done, but not everyone is courageous enough to act. A day becomes a week, a week becomes a month, a month becomes a year, and before we know it, a decision we knew was necessary never takes place.

So why don’t we act? There are many potential reasons, including:

  • Uncertainty about what we are trying to accomplish
  • Fear of failure
  • Failure to embrace the opportunity
  • Worry about what others think

Leaders face numerous difficult decisions, but a few common and meaningful ones are:

  • Making strategic hires (not just hiring task-driven employees) such as Human Resources, IT, Risk Management, and CFO. All too often, these types of strategic hires are viewed as overhead, when they are really our path to future success and growth.
  • Investing in equipment, including technology.
  • Exiting or entering a geographic region.
  • Walking away from a customer or product line.

Decisions like these guide our future. As leaders, we have people watching us and counting on us to do the right thing for the organization. We may be the owners or the top executives, but our team members’ livelihoods depend on us effectively dealing with tough decisions.

How can we more easily navigate the decision-making process surrounding complex and difficult matters? Here are a few steps that have been outlined by highly successful leaders:

  1. Define the discrete decision at hand—focus on the issue, not on all the noise surrounding the matter.
  2. Outline the opportunities arising from the action.
  3. Define the costs—both monetary and process changes.
  4. Determine a plan of action.
  5. Commit to a timeframe to accomplish the task.
  6. Seek the counsel of those whose judgment you trust to validate the plan—these individuals may be in or outside the organization.
  7. Remind yourself that the goal is to advance the cause of the organization.
  8. Act!

Successful companies are led by people who identify critical issues, are decisive, and take responsibility. Everyone's style for confronting difficult decisions is different. What strategies have you employed that have worked for you?


Stephen W. Christian, CPA

Stephen W. Christian is a director at Kreischer Miller. Contact him at Email or 215.441.4600. 



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