Admitting to difficult choices

Published by Tony Quinlan on

A recent conversation came round to an interesting communications point. A really important one, although it looks a bit pedantic:

We rarely choose to own the difficult choices that come out of a difficult environment. And in communications, we blame external factors. It’s perfectly natural, but it gives everyone else a reason to dodge owning a decision. You know the sort of thing:

“Because of the recession/economic conditions/new legislation, we have to make some changes/redundancies…”

Or whatever language your organisation uses.

So what we’re saying is no-one at the top of the organisation had a choice – or at least none are willing to own up to having to make one.

Hardly leadership is it?

Instead, I think we need to talk about the overall environment – the recession, etc – lay out the consequences of doing nothing, the best viable options and then someone – presumably the leader – says “It’s a tough decision that I wish I hadn’t had to make, but the alternative was worse. So I’ve decided to do xxxx.”

Because there was a decision made – as a friend put it recently, it may be a choice between standing in four feet of s**t or standing in six feet of s**t, but it was a choice.

Because if the leader blames external factors for difficult decisions, why can’t everyone?

1 Comment

Tomkertes · 11 April 2010 at 5:24 am

I agree with your point. We often blame capacity for why we are not doing one thing or another, but the reality is that the reason is never about capacity and is always about priority. Even if we had unlimited capacity our priorities would determine what we did and did not do. Even if I could do anything, I would do what I wanted. I would be driven by values, not by the fact than anything could be done. I think it’s also better to talk about priorities, since we are then making our values explicit. This allows us to be focused on values, and also to have more useful critical reflection and feedback. Misdirecting the issue to capacity leads to mistaken emphasis on building capacity, which may cost an organization in focus. Better to stay focused on priorities by talking about priorities, by framing choices in terms of priorities and by justifying actions in terms of priorities.

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