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Last Page: Making Decisions

“It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires great strength to decide what to do.” – Elbert Hubbard


Making decisions is one of a manager’s most difficult tasks. Is it the right choice? How will the staff react? Will it be disruptive? Is the effort worth the outcome?

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There’s no doubt about it. Making decisions can be downright painful. Most of us balk at making changes that may be difficult or hurt us or others in the short term even when we can see there are long-term benefits.

Professor and author Michael Jenson, who makes his living studying leadership traits, even has a name for this hesitation – Pain Avoidance Model (PAM). According to Jensen, this isn’t a rational mode of thinking, but a set of responses imprinted in our minds that helps us escape pain by readying us to fight danger or flee from it.


How does this translate to the front office? An executive has a business problem. Solving the situation will be painful. So he chooses not to confront the unpleasant reality. He ignores the problem.

According to Jensen, PAM is not just a psychological curiosity. Businesses lose millions of dollars every year because of leadership inaction.

Is there any hope? Jensen says there is. He states that the very signals that tell us to avoid pain can, with training, be redirected to the rational part of our brains. That means managers can teach themselves to face up to painful situations, recognize what must be done and act.


Change has always been one of life’s constants. But today the pace is rapid. The necessity to make fast, difficult decisions will be required to run a successful business.

Jensen predicts that those companies that embrace change – including the discomfort that it may bring – will prosper.

In short, today’s successful executive must be decisive. Still, how do you know if the decisions you make are the correct ones?

You won’t. But not making a decision is still a decision. Or as the Swahili proverb says, “Standing still is going.”

Not making a decision to prevent making the wrong choice isn’t worth the sacrifice. If your decision doesn’t take you where you hoped, you just make a new decision.


This time you’ll make a more informed decision because you’re further along than when you made your first choice. At this point, you have more information and experience to work with.

For as Samuel Smiles said, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success; we often discover what will do by finding our what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.”

It’s your decision.

Just imagine what great things you can discover.

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