Be a Decider, not a Criticizer

Welcome to 2021. Hallelujah.

As we move forward into the year, I hope we can soon leave behind constant worry about a microscopic virus leaping tall buildings and penetrating masks and face shields. We must of course all remain vigilant – and smart, but hopefully we will make giant strides in getting this problem controlled in the next few months.

You are likely familiar with the expression, “you cannot Monday morning quarterback the future.” The future is not yet written, let alone played out. So, it is impossible to scrutinize every action that has been taken. That is what makes the leadership obligation of visioning so difficult.

But oh, how so many love to Monday morning quarterback the past. Think about the number of occupations these days, in sports and media just to name a couple, that are dependent upon this process. There is some truth to the statement that for every 5 minutes a President speaks, the media with comment on it for another 25. And think about how much of this endless scrutinizing was done regarding COVID-19 during 2020.

Just remember that Monday morning quarterbacking is not an agenda item for leaders. They examine and learn from the past, but spend very little time playing “coulda, shoulda, woulda.” Probably because it serves no purpose except to stroke the ego. It does not help one lead others to future places, which are still unknown.

Hopefully, you will strive to avoid falling into the trap of constantly overcriticizing the past actions of yourself and others. Aspiring leaders lose credibility when they blame others for rationale decisions which may have turned out to be wrong. While it is still fresh in your mind, rewind to January 2020. Think about all the mixed messages, and little valid information about COVID, such as:

  • Doubtful it will work its way out of China or Southeast Asia
  • It is not much worse than the flu
  • Most people don’t even get symptoms when they get it
  • No real reason to worry much about it at this time
  • And the list goes on

Given those was the facts on hand at the time,

  • Would you have shut down all international air travel?
  • Would you have immediately tried to mandate mask wearing and social distancing?
  • Would you have even envisioned the need to quarantine the country by virtually shutting down all but essential businesses?
  • And the  list goes on

Let’s face it – everybody screwed up something about COVID. Not because they were evil, but because they were making decisions on what they thought they knew for sure, or highly anticipated at the time. That is the realm of leadership. Leaders never have all the facts about the future because those facts do not yet exist. So, hopefully, the leaders study what they do know, collaborate with others (including those who think much differently), weigh best and worst case probabilities, and make decisions. And they get many of them wrong, when dealing with something as unknown and changing as COVID.

Thoughtful, well-researched and reasonable decisions which don’t pan out as expected are forgivable. But six months later, when new facts and experiences are known, it is unforgiveable for a so-called leader to look back and pronounce how she or he would have taken a different course of action at the time. Newsflash – we all would have acted differently, had we known. That is not leadership, it is more like self-centered chest thumping.

So going forward, resist the urge to criticize others for the wrong decisions they made at the time, and instead take time to examine how they came to the conclusions they did. Did they actively seek out differing opinions, or did they mandate decisions based solely on personal opinions? Did they take time to look at all the evidence available at the time or did they let one or two isolated examples sway them? A great deal can be learned from examining the decision making process. There will always be some reliance on intuition or “gut feel” when facing something brand new, but there are also sound leadership and decision making principles which should still be utilized as well.

It is totally irrelevant to crow about what you would have done six or eight months ago. What is relevant – and necessary – is to decide on what you will do right now to move forward, and then get after it. Think about that.

May 2021 turn out prosperous and fulfilling for you.

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