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The Quickest Way to Kill Employee Motivation

Adam Cahan, SVP of video, design, and emerging offerings at YahooAdam Cahan, SVP of video, design, and emerging offerings at Yahoo
Adam Cahan, SVP of video, design, and emerging offerings at YahooCourtesy of Yahoo

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 Adam Cahan, SVP of video, design, and emerging offerings at Yahoo.

Make an imperfect one.

The nature of a tough business decision means that either the information you’ve been presented isn’t sufficient or the judgment call you’re being asked to make doesn’t have a clear outcome. The mistake that’s often made is to wait until more information becomes apparent. Waiting is indecision. In the rapidly evolving market in which we live and work, speed and adaptability are critical means to success. In my experience working at Google (GOOG), two startups, and now at Yahoo (YHOO), there are a few things I’ve learned along the way that have helped me make tough business decisions.

It’s always better to make a good decision today, than a perfect decision tomorrow
Throughout my entire career I’ve been asked to make many imperfect decisions. But what I’ve come to learn is that my role as a leader is really about serving my employees and helping my teams be successful.

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to inspire our teams, provide direction, and remove obstacles. In other words, you have to unblock them. Nothing kills morale and success faster than a team that isn’t allowed to execute. What I’ve found again and again is that waiting for additional information or debating a decision at length means paralyzing your team from having impact and learning. Think of it this way, inaction is the same as saying no. If not doing something is the right answer, you should at least make that decision consciously.

Be an optimist, but accept failure
All leaders must be optimists — we must constantly strive for a better future. This primary principle will feel in conflict with the ability to accept failure, because as an optimist, it’s assumed there is always something more we can do or try. But having a tolerance for failure is needed to protect your teams from tough decisions that may not go your way. Many leaders, and even companies, enter a state of inaction because they fear failure. You must act as if you’re not afraid to fail; it’s always better to make the imperfect decision and course correct, than to not have tried.

Assume you’ll be the headline of tomorrow’s paper
As leaders, we should tolerate failure but never sacrifice our integrity. If you’re ever in doubt about whether a decision is in conflict with your values or principles, give yourself the front-page test. How would you feel if your decision and everything leading up to it became fully transparent and public? If there’s any reason why you wouldn’t feel comfortable with that, you’re on the wrong side of the line.