Monday, May 4, 2015

Are You A Decision Maker?

Gary and Jason (not their real names) have been business partners for over a decade. But while their joint practice is blooming, their partnership is in trouble. Why? Decision making, essential to the forward momentum of their business, has been stalled.

The impetus for this struggle is Jason’s assistant Damian, who is also his brother-in-law.  Damian is not able to keep pace with the growing demands of the job, and overflow work has fallen on the shoulders of Gary’s assistant, Brenda.  The result: frustration, resentment, and a bottle-necking of work.  Making matters worse, while Gary addressed his concerns with Jason, Jason held off taking any clear actions.  Now, communication between the two has become stilted, and both recognize the practice is beginning to suffer.  To date they have lost one large business prospect, and are at risk of losing two current clients.  Further complicating the situation, Brenda has become irritable and Gary is concerned she may quit. Gary and Jason are considering the need to divide the business, each taking a portion of the clients with him.  At the recommendation of their accountant, the two agreed to meet with a facilitator to discuss their options.

When I met with Gary and Jason, each expressed concerns about the health of their business and their partnership.  Both also acknowledged struggles on the customer service end.  However their solutions to these issues were not well-aligned.  Jason expressed a committed to staying together and hiring more staff.  Gary was set on separating their practice and ending their partnership. 

Through the facilitative process, Gary was asked to clarify his reasons for wanting to dissolve their business. As he expressed his concerns about Jason’s management (and lack thereof) of staff, Jason brushed it off. When Jason was asked to explain his position and his efforts to manage staff – he became defensive and resistant.

Jason’s failure to take action, or even explain his reasons for not doing so, had become the primary source of the contention between he and Gary. Yet he continued to point to other issues. What Jason struggled to realize: His brother-in-law was no longer the problem, his refusal to take action was.

I worked with Jason and Gary to identify the initiating event (Damian’s inefficiency) and the progressive costs resulting from Jason’s reluctance to address the issue head-on.

The cost of this indecision:
- Work suffered (with internal and external impacts)
- Decreased ability to earn money
- Anxiety and loss of sleep
- Damaged relationships (professionally and personally)

As the discussion continued, it became clear these costs were not incurred by Jason or Gary alone. Other employees were impacted. Clients were impacted. Their families were impacted.

I asked Jason, “Did you knowingly sacrifice all that (the costs previously outlined), to protect Damian from potential job loss or hurt feelings?” It seemed ridiculous, in this light, that Jason had actually done just that. Through the facilitative process Jason took ownership for the situation that had come to pass. And, he and Gary became realigned as they planned the steps toward stabilizing their practice.

Jason, like many people, had become paralyzed with fear. To avoid dealing with a difficult issue, he lived only in the moment – and the moment never felt right for giving feedback or terminating a family member.

The lesson is this: Indecision and stagnancy, regardless of the reasons behind them, will lead to more problems. Some far greater than the initiating circumstances. With this in mind, I encourage you to examine your own life – What decisions are you putting off? What is the price you are paying for that indecision? What help do you need to begin the forward momentum that will bring you success?