Mayday, mayday, mayday, this is Cactus 1549
September 2016 marked the premiere of Sully, a Clint Eastwood-directed film that depicts the real life account of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, who became the poster-pilot for an incident known as The Miracle on the Hudson. If you’re not familiar with the event or haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil the plot, but I will say that it highlights a topic which just happens to be the focus of number seven in my 10 Deadly Sins of Leadership: Grappling With Decisions.
Whether you’re a middle manager, CEO (or airline pilot), if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve already been faced with your share of decision-making. It goes with the territory and what makes hair go grey and in some cases, disappear.
When I consult with clients, I don’t necessarily make decisions for them — that’s their business. Instead, what I like to impart is how to make a decision. A tried and true checklist is as follows:
- Identify the root problem
- Collect information
- Identify alternatives
- Weigh the evidence
- Choose from alternatives
- Implement the action
- Evaluate the results
Not listed in this construct is something worth mentioning, and that is, “Not make a decision.”
If you’re a leader, vacillation serves no one. Ultimately, your decision may be wrong, but to borrow from Tennyson, it’s better to have made a decision and lost, than never to have made a decision at all. Which brings me to my last point, which is: take responsibility. There are times when your decision will work out and times when it won’t. Subordinates will respect you far more if you fess up when you make the wrong call than if you make excuses or pass the buck.
It’s better to have made a decision and lost, than never to have made a decision at all
Consider the words that General Dwight D. Eisenhower privately prepared in the event that the 1944 D-Day invasion was a failure: “If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.”
Good for Dwight. Yet, fortunately for him and the free world, he didn’t have to impart those words.
Fast forward to January 15, 2009 when US Airways Flight 1549 ran into a world of hurt over New York. In the flurry of confusion, could it be that one of checklists Captain Sullenberger consulted included the one above?
Watch the movie and you decide.
Thanks for reading,