The Value of Taking Decisive Action



I was asked by a Nordic multinational to help increase employee engagement in its company locations across continental Europe. My recommendations included training their leaders to communicate more effectively.

Attendees at the practicum represented a melting pot of cultural diversity as managers from more than 16 countries came together in a single endeavor. Although each person modeled a distinct leadership style appropriate to his/her country’s culture, achieving the goal of the session enabling them to connect with their audiences through storytelling – required that they all adhere to a single process.

During the workshop, one manager who was uncomfortable with the designated process refused to participate. His cynical views and lack of involvement threatened to undermine the process by causing a rift in the group. I had to act rapidly to ensure the group would be able to achieve the program’s objectives.

I approached the uncooperative manager during the break and invited him to make a choice. His two options were to a) stay and participate or b) leave. I explained the consequences of each choice, and the terms and conditions of his staying in behavioral terms, so he could make an informed decision. Then I let him choose between the options. He opted to stay and participate. Moreover, he became the highlight of the program by crafting a compelling message around his personal challenge that day to authentically connect with his peers.

So many times, leaders sabotage their efforts by failing to take decisive action. For example, they may try to be politically correct, or they allow fear of how a remedial action might be taken by the target or of how others might perceive them to paralyze them. They lose precious time to take decisive action by wrangling with thoughts like:

  • “Oh, I don’t want to embarrass this person.”
  • “I can’t force him to do that.”
  • “May be I need to be more understanding.”

Acting, or failing to act, to address a dysfunctional situation based on these misguided notions is an inappropriate leadership response. At best, it allows the situation to get worse or even break down entirely resulting in low productivity, decreased employee morale or increased conflict. At the extreme, a lack of decisive action may result in failure to achieve an important objective or in ruined relationships. To establish the most effective course of action, ask yourself two questions:

      1. What is the group’s objective?
      2. What action is in the best interest of the group?


Although you can’t force others to do something against their will, you can offer them options and let them choose. Because they  make the decision, they own the outcome.

In short, failing to take decisive action costs you – taking decisive action pays: it can protect your brand, business, and refocus attention on the goal. To learn more about how to ensure your projects or outcomes stay on track by masterfully handling people who engage in undesirable behaviors, I invite you to read my article: 6 Steps to Transform Undesirable Behavior to Desirable Behavior


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