Leading Ideas: Decisiveness Generates Momentum

"The percentage of mistakes in quick decisions is no greater than in long-drawn-out vacillation, and the effect of decisiveness itself 'makes things go' and creates confidence." ā€” Anne O'Hare McCormick (1882-1954), First woman to win a Pulitzer prize for journalism

Consider This:

Contrary to popular belief, your decisions don't drive your long term success - your decisiveness does. Said another way, when you reach a crossroads on any issue, the act of choosing creates power, not the choice itself. The issue is momentum. No matter what you choose, when you commit boldly with conviction, you create momentum. When you hesitate you don't. And success is built on momentum.

One of the most common breeding grounds for indecision is to-do lists. One of my clients had over 100 items on his when we first met. He wanted me to help him create systems to get them all done. I told him the most powerful system I know is the 3 D's - Do it, Delegate it, or Delete it. We carved up his list and actually deleted 75% of it in about 30 minutes (including some items that had been on there for 2 years!) The process was painful for him, but ultimately very freeing. "It was cathartic," he later admitted. "Actually making the choice NOT to do all those things took a huge weight off my shoulders and allowed me to focus on things that were truly important."

Try This:

1. Get a copy of your to-do list
2. Be decisive about each item - are you going to Do it, Delegate it, or Delete it
3. Write out steps and a timeline for things you need to do.
4. Do it
5. Recognize that the more decisive you are, the easier the process gets.

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  • mahendra kumar dash

    To be decisive enough is not alone important.Sticking to it and stand by the ethics are more important.

  • mahendra kumar dash

    Yes, committing boldly to the decision and sticking to it, matter.

  • John Pannell

    Decisiveness is a quality of a good leader. If you can decide with passion, speed and confidence, then you will be respected and people will follow and support you. If you walk out of a meeting with too many "I'll get back to you" then you are a doer and people will start to treat you as such. I use the Getting Things Done mythology to help manage my commitments, thus freeing more of my time to review and understand my key projects and objectives. Knowing what your manager, spouse and company are expecting from you will help you be more decisive.

  • peter

    Try a little experiment.

    Walk down a busy street and try and duck and weave through all the people. You get to the end of the street faster than everyone else but thats generally it.

    Now walk down the same street and walk with the flow of the traffic. Tou get there just after the person in fron of you.

    Now stop. Your going nowhere. But everyone around you has to walk around you. In fact, watch people from far away as they approach you. They start to change their direction well before you get there. You move all that singular momentum just by standing still.

    Whilst this may be a really stupid thing to do or consider I think there is merit in considering the relationship between momementum and direction.

    I suspect that long term success is a combination of decisiveness (momentum) and the things in yourself or around you that just sit there channelling all that momentum in the direction called success.

  • Moe Abdou

    I am a firm believer that the ability to make quick decisions is a human ability that each of us possess. It's simply a matter of learning how to harness the right side of our brains. Observe successful entrepreneurs and you'll discover that a gut decision was their turning point. It requires courage and the willingness to fail in order to advance. The "Kolbe" profile is an outstanding tool that will help you measure your instinctive abilities. Give it a try.

  • Alex

    Like it or don't, decisiveness drives you forward. I like what Tony Robbins says about decisions in that you literally cut yourself off from any other option. And, as Gen. George Patton said, "A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week." Yes, there are some decisions over which you need to take some time and consider the options. But once the options are considered, make the decsion and be done. The pining over which option is best is what kills momentum.

  • M. Russell Stewart

    I would add that the B-word (Balance) that has been abounding in FC Now lately still has merit here. The Kepner-Tregoe approach to decision making is one of the most brilliant methods ever conceived, in my opinion. The process allows for individuals, pairs, or large groups to focus on what they really are trying to decide, elaborate on the objectives to be met, and then gauge how well a particular alternative or option would meet those objectives. Afterwards, a risk assessment is performed that allows everyone involved to identify potential pitfalls and try to mediate or eliminate them before the decision is made.

    After all is said and done, however, K-T still allows for a quick decision. If the choice is clear enough without going through the entire process, you simply make it. If time allows and it deserves some more thought, the process above can be completed in less than an hour or two in most cases.

    It seems that very few decisions must be made on the spot. Spending an hour to look more in depth at the inner spectrum of the decision eliminates many errors that might have been made in a more hasty approach. "Experience teaches us that there are no awards for past optimism over current failures. This fact is borne out by the difficulty of finding out who, in any organization, was really responsible for the very worst decisions that were ever made (See the book, "The New Rational Manager," by the founders, Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe)."


  • Casey Peters

    Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a speech given by Malcolm Gladwell. He spoke on this very issue. He referred back to a time when an art museum paid $15 Million for a statue they claimed was real. All of this after 14 months of investigation of course. When they presented it to a handful of experts, they instantly claimed it was fake. The quick thinking experts were right, it was a fake. Decisions are a gut instinct and often times we overwhelm ourselves with more information than is needed. Thus, our decision path is jumbled with facts and figures. Know what you need to know and decide. It's that simple.

  • Tyler

    If you read the book, "Now Discover Your Strengths" this is called the Activator strength. This basically means that you don't wait around for ALL of the details, just the ones that will let you jump into action.

  • Libby Bolling

    Finally! An opinion that cuts right to the bone of the matter. We've been breeding a cultural indecisiveness since the seventies. People seem afraid to take up an opinion about most anything. In this age of "PC-ness," people just don't listen to their gut and take action anymore. And, even worse, with an expert to TELL you what to think around every corner, it's no wonder we have sunk into the mire of indecisiveness. What if we do this, then who will we offend? What if we do that, then will we make a fatal faux-paus? Oooops! I spelled it incorrectly! Oh no! I made a mistake! Next time I'll have to really think before I submit to this blog and expose my weaknesses. Gosh, it's just soooo tedious.

  • Andy

    This echos the "lean manufacturing" concept of single piece flow. If you are working on more than one think at a time, you are less and less effective at moving the first product through the pipeline.

  • g

    That might be a fine philosophy for mundane business matters. But, some decisions have the power to dramatically impact people's lives - time should be taken to ensure the best course of action is taken. And if a bad decision is made, the leadership must be able to admit that and change course.

  • Mads

    Amen! In my old job I never understood why it was that every year at review time, I got a very positive review. It turned out it was because I was one of the only people around, who did not want to sit and have endless discussions. I preferred to just jump in and get to it, and my manager and people around me took notice of that. Of course it cost me sometimes, but I agree with the point that it also created momentum - which again brought me personal succes.