If You Need an Answer Right Now, the Answer Is “No”
Even highly decisive leaders don’t like to be rushed to make a decision. Rushing a decision is a recipe for regret. Split-second decisions usually turn out poorly. Because we know this, we are highly suspicious of any request for a quick decision or answer.
Leaders hear requests for a fast decision as an ultimatum. Either make the decision right now, or lose the opportunity to do so. They bristle at the idea that any decision has to be made immediately. They conjure an image of those countdown, high-pressure commercials warning listeners they have only three seconds to act. The rule becomes: If you need an answer or a decision this minute, the answer is, “No.”
“No” is the safest route, and leaders take it when under pressure or when the autonomy and independence they require to feel good about the decision is threatened by a condensed timeframe.
Yet, despite the fact that we know how others react to the request for a quick decision, we too often make them ourselves. In our hurry to close an issue or seize an opportunity, we present our case as a make-it-now scenario, virtually ensuring a negative response in the process.
As we think about leading up and managing the perceptions of those above us in an organization, the best rule is to remember that anything that suggests urgency for a decision is likely to be rejected. Even when the time pressure is justified, we are best served by laying out the case and removing the need to make the decision quickly. If the picture is painted clearly, the decision maker will reach the conclusion that time is of the essence all on their own.
As the Greek playwright Sophocles warned, “Quick decisions are unsafe decisions.” In reality, it’s not the fast decision that is the real problem. Instead, it is the request for an immediate decision that creates the resistance.