Outside of my comfort zone....
I am reading a very practical and provocative leadership book entitled, "Double Double" by Cameron Herold.
I highly recommend it to anyone who is willing to be challenged about how to build a business that grows and brings out the best in founders, senior management, employees and customers. Herold is a proven leader and shares many provocative insights.
In Chapter Four of the book, the author presents an idea he calls "Focused Hiring" - how to create a process that helps you find the very best candidates for your company. (This is not an easy task, I admit to several mis-hires in my career as I sometimes settled for second best to move ahead)
In this chapter, there are 75 possible questions we can ask our candidates. I decided to take the challenge and answer all of them myself. (Whew! When was the last time I’ve thought about my career history with this much detail!)
But as I was chewing through the list of questions, I found myself spending quite a bit of time on this one:
"Tell me about a bad decision you made and what you would have done differently in retrospect?"
Tell me about your BAD decision...
So, I rolled up my sleeves and wrote about two recent times when I made "bad" decisions. As I started writing the words that described my thinking, my process and the unexpected outcome, I found myself pushing back on the word "BAD."
“Bad” means "failing to reach an acceptable standard: poor, unfavorable." (according to Merriam-Webster). But if you read even further, it also suggests that BAD is "morally objectionable, evil, injurious, harmful and diseased."
Whew! These words imply something very personal about ME as a person, not just about my decision. And maybe that is why I push back when I deconstruct the "bad decision" definition. It feels like I AM BAD too. A BAD PERSON.
I know there are situations where some of these definitions of bad have real meaning. A bad war decision can be fraught with moral implications, harm, injury and even death. Bad medical decisions by a doctor can also be fraught with harm and injury. And we certainly see the consequences of people making truly evil decisions that are beyond just "bad."
But in the general course of our BUSINESS lives, how can we honestly talk about our mistakes, lack of judgment and incorrect decisions - without feeling that we are inherently BAD people? Or even morally objectionable?
I have made many decisions that did not work out....
In answer to the question that started all of this examination - "have I ever made a bad business decision"? Well, I have made many decisions that resulted in outcomes I did not intend. (Ouch!) I have made decisions that I truly wish I could change. (Do over!) I have made some decisions too quickly. (Slow down!)
I believe the "label of bad" gets in the way of all of us authentically owning our missteps and mistakes. It inhibits our willingness to even keep making decisions. How many meetings have we all sat through because no one wanted to make a decision that was considered BAD or WRONG?? Too many to count.
If we want to encourage our employees AND ourselves to be brave enough to continue to make decisions - some of which will work out and some of which won't - we need to remove the BAD word and the associated BAD FEELINGSfrom our actions and our vocabulary. And maybe it does start as simply as choosing our words more carefully, to take the implied shame and blame out of the decision-making process. I think this is what convinces some people to stay far away from ever making decisions. When decisions don't work out, it feels much worse than maybe it needs to, it feels like shame, blame and even failure.
Our companies need more decisions, more successful decisions, not fewer decisions, to achieve success and growth. Making a decision that doesn’t work out doesn’t make you a bad person. You are a brave person whose decision may not succeed at this time. But remember, you made the decision! And that is what matters and is a brave thing. Some even say that when we fall, true success is getting up quickly and making another decision to fix that one that didn't work.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. “ Learn.
Nancy Bullock is the President of Digital Market Solutions, Inc, a marketing firm that assists both small and large companies in creating and fitting together their digital strategy with traditional offline marketing strategies. She also writes on the corporate business world and women in leadership.