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Pick a Horse and Other Sage Advice About Leadership Decisions

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Person's hand flipping a coin against white backgroundIn our previous post about the strangest form of Analysis Paralysis, we wrote about doctors and others who seem to enjoy being a healthcare marketing spectator…but they never venture off the sidelines and actually get into the game.

From time to time we encounter a similar sort of marketing malady where a physician or administrator asks everyone they know for advice about marketing. We find this in various situations, including among doctors in a group practice where someone is designated the “marketing leader.”

Perhaps in an effort to make everyone happy, the appointed chairperson is constantly gathering input from colleagues, friends, advertising consultants, fellow medical school alums, the Starbucks barista…just about anyone and everyone.

Eventually, the problem isn’t the lack of marketing advice—some good, some bad—but the lack of leadership and informed decision-making. When we uncover this situation, our straight-from-the-shoulder advice is: “Pick a Horse. We can help you with the mechanics, but someone needs to lead." Marketing by committee or consensus is a serious red flag and a warning of failure ahead.

Don’t take our word for it…

Of course we’re not advocating a shoot-from-the-hip approach. Well-informed counsel and results-based marketing are vital to success. But success is elusive without effective leadership. We often advise medical practices that they can opt to work with us or work with someone else, but inaction—a decision of sorts—is inevitably a costly choice.

Consider how a few others address this concept:

"Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader. Don't fall victim to what I call the 'ready-aim-aim-aim-aim syndrome'. You must be willing to fire." [T. Boone Pickens]

“On an important decision one rarely has 100 percent of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits. And, if one waits too long, he has a different problem and has to start all over. This is the terrible dilemma of the hesitant decision maker.” [Robert K. Greenleaf]

“If you obsess over whether you are making the right decision, you are basically assuming that the universe will reward you for one thing and punish you for another.

“The universe has no fixed agenda. Once you make any decision, it works around that decision. There is no right or wrong, only a series of possibilities that shift with each thought, feeling, and action that you experience.” [Deepak Chopra]

Someone once observed that some people are very decisive when it comes to avoiding decisions. And American cartoonist Scott Adams, creator of the popular Dilbert series, suggests: “Informed decision-making comes from a long tradition of guessing and then blaming others for inadequate results.”

And if “pick a horse” seems a little harsh, remember that: “Whenever you see a successful business, someone once made a courageous decision.”

Stewart Gandolf, MBA

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