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How the Corporate Decision Trap is Keeping You from Accomplishing Big Things

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red tape bound

We’re supposed to brave when we’re young. We’re supposed to feel invincible. We’re supposed to grow from our mistakes, right?

Some of us might even dream of becoming the red-caped business superhero who’s willing to take risks now and ask for forgiveness later. One who can make bold decisions and go with their gut, à la Don Draper.

Unfortunately our dreams can get shot down early in our development by corporate cultures that train young leaders NOT to make decisions.

Answer “yes” to any of these symptoms, and you just might be risking your dream:

  • All your work has to be pre-approved before completion.
  • You know what you’re supposed to do, but your supervisor constantly checks up on you.
  • You can’t run to the bathroom or answer a client call without running it by your boss first.

Are you getting the leadership training you deserve?

If we let our decision-making skills go untrained in our youth, we’ll be lost when it comes time to make the big, important decisions later in our careers when WE become the senior leaders. If we aren’t allowed to think on our feet and make a decisions early, the process will be foreign and difficult when the costs are highest.

In 1776, officers on the battlefield were expected to make tactical decisions based on their commanders’ intent and previous instruction. They did not have the time nor the ability to run every single decision through the chain of command prior to moving forward. George Washington was as close to Superman as it gets, but even he couldn’t be everywhere at once.

Fast-forward 200 years. Today it seems young leaders are lucky to choose where to have lunch, much less decide how to go about completing their assigned tasks. It’s a sad truth that junior leaders today are not as well-equipped to make tactical decisions.

But don’t worry. It’s not our fault, completely.

We live in a world where information is so readily available and communication so easy that senior leaders want to know as much as possible so they can make that all-knowing, perfect decision. Decisions are being made higher up the organizational chart then necessary.

We belong to a time where some organizations make decisions at the highest level possible instead of at the lowest, most efficient level. The hope is that by hoarding all the power, fewer mistakes will be made. When in truth, mistakes just end up costing more.

What many organizations today don’t realize is that a late decision is the same as a bad decision. And, their junior leaders lose out on opportunities to learn by doing (or deciding, rather).

The same principle controls the stock market. The idea is to buy low and sell high, but when a stock starts to tank and everyone jumps ship, no one realizes they’re too late. In the time it takes to look around and see what everyone else is doing, the inept investor “waits” themselves into buy-high and sell-low decisions.

Fortunately, it’s not too late for us.

It’s time to get some guts, don that tricorn hat and start making decisions. Don’t allow yourself to be lulled to sleep by the corporate decision trap.

If a process is broken, find a better way and execute it. If you’re working on a project, stop playing 20 questions with your supervisor, and just get it done. If you have a great idea, don’t run it by your boss to see if they agree. Just go for it, and let them thank you later.

Pick a direction and move forward. Sure, you’re bound to make a few bad decisions. But if you’re making these decisions quickly enough, there’s time to recover.

Stop watching opportunities pass you by because you’re unwilling to take a chance and make a decision.

Ben Drake is an Air Force Officer, grad student and the Communications and Branding Lead at @be_influential. Create your portfolio today and show the world what you have to offer.

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