This famous Naval saying is attributed to John Paul Jones, the father of the U.S. Navy during the Revolutionary War, and is still applicable today in a business, government or military setting.
When “living on the edge” with a key decision, one universal truth is that you will likely never have enough information at hand when the decision needs to be made. A leader must make the call based on the best information available, and then be willing to adjust as necessary while accepting accountability for the results either good or bad.
A great example is General Eisenhower making the call to launch the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944. He wrote two notes, one praising the results of all those involved, and another accepting blame if things didn’t turn out as planned. Other examples are Theranos, the blood testing company, that kept insisting they were achieving their goals even in the face of insurmountable challenges, and the State of Minnesota MNLARS system for processing drivers’ licenses and vehicle tags. One would not give up on the promise of success, and the other finally admitted that they could not justify spending more taxpayer dollars on something that just did not work. Which category would you fall into?
How can you increase your odds of success when making a decision that carries a high degree of risk?
- Create an environment where people are comfortable telling you bad news
- Communicate expectations early
- Model potential outcomes
- Practice or role play the situation multiple times (governments and the military are very good at this. Businesses not so much)
- Adjust quickly including changing leaders if necessary
- Trust but inspect
These skills will not be acquired by reading a book, but by observing others plan for, and make similar decisions. Additional ways to gain this knowledge are to join a peer group or engage an executive coach to help walk through the decision-making process. While the ultimate decision is yours alone, it should not be made in a vacuum. Others have been through similar situations and can offer perspectives that are invaluable.
Send me an email or give us a call if this is of further interest. There’s little or no risk!