The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “How do you make tough business decisions?” is by Ratmir Timashev, CEO of Veeam.
A friend once told me you only have to be right 51% of the time when making decisions. While he laughed when he said this, it does hold a serious, instructive lesson that I keep in mind when making tough decisions.
As the common phrase goes, “you need to make decisions or they’ll be made for you.” At Veeam, we believe it’s better to make the wrong decision than to make no decision at all. You can often correct something that’s wrong, but you don’t always get a second chance. You won’t always get everything right on your first attempt, however, a decision is synonymous with direction; it’s not the end-all. With any journey, you often have to alter your course due to circumstances that arise. It’s more important to learn as you go and adapt accordingly to achieve the desired outcome.
We have an ongoing joke at our company: “Let’s make an important and critical decision based on little or no information.” When you’re introducing “firsts” and want to be innovative you have to make tough decisions based on indirect data points and common business sense, not hard facts or previous outcomes.
In general, when making tough decisions, understand that decisiveness defines a leader and instills team confidence. While a “winning record” is important, fear of making the wrong choice should not be the primary motivator. If a team has nothing to get behind then progress is never made. Stagnation is an invitation to attrition and decline.
And decisiveness must be ongoing. If an initial decision is proven wrong — if the direction you’re heading in has no chance of success — be equally decisive in cutting your losses. Be bold, but do not waste effort, money, or agonize over a losing proposition. Instead, focus on a new solution — never let a momentary setback undermine your confidence. This is business, and the ability to continue to make tough decisions and seize new opportunities as others become gun-shy can make all the difference.
So when things get cloudy, let the dust settle. Moving quickly can be a great advantage, but not at the expense of rushing in blindly. When your mind is cluttered, take time to clear it. Hit the gym to peel away the stress, do whatever you need to regain your objectivity and clarity. Often, that brief mental ‘time out’ allows the best ideas to rise to the top, making tough decisions much easier.