Making tough decisions

When you’re running a business, you can’t be afraid to make a bad decision. That doesn’t mean you go out of your way to make mistakes; it simply means you can’t be paralyzed by the fear of being less-than-perfect. The job description requires you to make decisions that keep moving the business forward.

Which means, of course, that occasionally you’re going to make the wrong choice. So how do you recover when the big decisions go wrong? What happens when you realize you made the wrong C-level hire or that acquisition isn’t working out?

When the inevitable mistake occurs, how do you bounce back?

Here is a quick roadmap of bouncing back when you’ve made the wrong decision.

Admit the mistake. Most business owners and executives are optimists at heart; they’re successful because they believe that good things will happen. However, sometimes you can believe in heading down a certain path for too long, and it can be difficult to see when something is going sideways.

Often, a trusted colleague may be the one to point out to you that a decision isn’t working out. It’s important to have a clear-eyed view of how things are going, listen to legitimate criticism and hold yourself to the highest standards.

Ultimately, if the rest of your team sees your willingness to be forthcoming about any bad decisions you make, they’ll come to understand that they can operate boldly, and not out of fear.

Tell people you’re sorry. This goes along with admitting the mistake. It’s important to take ownership of the mistake and issue a real apology to those negatively impacted—don’t say something like “if I caused any trouble” but rather, “I’m sorry I cost us that deal and impacted you earning your commission.”

Fix it. If you hired the wrong person for an important role, you’re doing a disservice to everyone if you keep that person in that role. If you’ve made a business deal or acquisition that isn’t working, it’s best to have honest discussions about how to undo the deal. Of course, sometimes you won’t be able to fix the problem—but then there has to be an effort to make the best of it.

Learn from it. As has been said, failure is the greatest teacher. When you’ve made a bad decision, analyze where you weren’t diligent enough about thinking through the ramifications of the decision. From there, make any changes that need to be made, whether to your personal decision-making process or to how the business operates.

Swinging and missing on the big stage is part of being an executive. The key is to bounce back quickly from a bad decision and learning from it so you don’t make the same mistake again.

Contact us at 215.441.4600 or Email if you have questions or would like to discuss how this topic may impact your business.

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