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It’s Better to Make a Wrong Decision Fast

Sep 15

For those that don’t know I played and coached volleyball for a great deal of my life.  Being from Michigan I can tell you that is rare (being a male) and I got called “gay” more than once while fundraising to make money to pay for traveling nationally for major tournaments (I think the actual phrases were more like “don’t girls only play volleyball”, etc. Welcome to the rust belt).

Anyway, one piece of my coaching stuck with me (we used with our middle blockers) that I also have used into my adult life and I use it still today:

It’s better to make a wrong decision fast, then make the right decision to slow.

Why?  In volleyball,  when you go to block you have to make split second decisions. You have 3 options: block middle, block right side hitter, or block left side hitter.  You rely on your instincts, you rely on communication from your teammates and you survey the situation (where is the pass coming from, where is the setter, how far off the net is the setter, etc.), then you make a decision.

The problem most middle blockers have at a young age is they want to be up on every block. They want to make the right decision every time, but by doing this, they rarely make it to block any position because they are frozen with indecision.  I taught my middles to decide quickly and then do it. Do it 110%!  Go to which ever spot you decided to block and block and even if the ball went to another position!

Why?  Some positive things happen by you making the wrong decision quickly. For starters it allows your teammates to make adjustments they need to make to try and get the best possible outcome. Believe me your back row players know you made the wrong decision because they’re staring down the hitter with only one blocker! BUT, it also allows them to know how to try and defend that.

If you’re late, and you have a hole in the middle of the block and now they have to guess where to go. Fill the hole, cover the line, take the cross, etc.  It becomes a guessing game. One which you rarely win. What happens if you make the right decision to slow?  About 99% of the time, what was going to happen, already happened. You didn’t make the decision, it was made for you. I like being in control, so this isn’t an option I like.

So what? What the heck does this have anything to do with you becoming a better leader?

Fast Company has a wonderful article on this concept called: Why Keeping Your Options Open is Really, Really Bad Idea – from the article:

Why does keeping our options open make us less happy? Because once we make a final, no-turning-back decision, the psychological immune system kicks in. This is how psychologists like Gilbert refer to the mind’s uncanny ability to make us feel good about our decisions. Once we’ve committed to a course of action, we stop thinking about alternatives. Or, if we do bother to think about them, we think about how lousy they are compared to our clearly superior and awesome choice.

Most of us have had to make a choice between two colleges, or job offers, or apartments. You may have had to choose which candidate to hire for a job, or which vendor your company would engage for a project. When you were making your decision, it was probably a tough one–every option had significant pros and cons. But after you made that decision, did you ever wonder how you could have even considered the now obviously inferior alternative?…

When you keep your options open, however, you can’t stop thinking about the downside–because you’re still trying to figure out if you made the right choice. The psychological immune system doesn’t kick in, and you’re left feeling less happy about whatever choice you end up making.

This brings us to the other problem with reversible decisions–new research shows that they don’t just rob you of happiness, they also lead to poorer performance.

I tend to run into this with younger workers who want to make the right choice, fearing “death” or some other less desirable outcome if they make the wrong choice.  They tend to defer decision making to their boss or a peer instead of making it themselves, thus giving away the chance for superior performance.

When in reality, all I want is for them to make any choice, and we’ll live with the outcome.  I hire great people, so I’m sure they’ll make very wise, research driven decisions, and even then, sometimes they’ll fail.  I’m willing to live with that.  If it’s fast! Because that allows us to adjust and find a way to make it right.

Two things at play in this concept: 1. Fast action; 2. Failure is an option, that we can live with.  Give me those two things, and I’ll show you an organization that is on the move and that can block pretty well!

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