Leadership Decision Dumping

When you face a problem, solve it then and there if you have the facts necessary to make a decision. Don’t keep putting off decisions. ~Dale Carnegie

Donation dumping. I volunteer at a thrift store so the news story on donation dumping caught my attention. At one of the large Salvation Army thrift stores in Chicago someone had broken the steel gate in order to get in and leave their unwanted COVID-19 spring cleaning items. Yes, they actually broke in, in order to leave (not take) items. That’s one of the many pandemic paradoxes.

Decision Dumping

Another paradox that I’ve noticed is the number of leaders who are also “spring cleaning.” They aren’t donation dumping but they are decision dumping.

The number of people who have been thrust into the ranks of the unemployed is staggering. I recognize that many of these decisions were gut-wrenchingly difficult, yet necessary given that there were literally no revenues to make payroll. The pain caused by all of this should not be taken lightly. But I’m talking about something different in this paradox.

I’m referencing people in leadership positions whose performance has been lackluster for some time. There likely should have been consequences for their lack of performance or maybe simply lack of a good fit for the role or the organization. And now, suddenly, they are being let go.

It’s hard to deal with leaders who just aren’t working out. But it seems that leaders find it especially hard to deal with issues on their own leadership team.

However, as the crisis began to escalate and stay at home orders were being put in place leaving organizations with only days to prepare, something started to happen. Bold decisions were being made that were not only to pivot due to the pandemic, but were also decisions that had been procrastinated for some time to let leadership team members go. I’m guessing leaders found it less difficult to make those decisions because now they are one of many other decisions amidst the COVID chaos.  

At what cost?

My next question for this has been “At what cost is this to their organization?” In other words, had this problem been acted on sooner, would the organization have been better prepared to maneuver through the current crisis?

So why is this a paradox? Well, as Jim Collins says, one of the key roles of a great leader is to get the right people on the bus and in the right seats. If that’s a key role, then why does it take something extreme like a crisis for the leader to take action on what is critical to leading the organization?

My intention is not to encourage leaders to suddenly let their leadership team go. My intention is to encourage leaders to stop delaying difficult conversations. Be bold: name what’s not working. With grace: give people a chance (and support) to self-correct. Don’t wait for something as catastrophic and rare as a pandemic to make decisions that should be part of the leader’s role, day-in and day-out.

Don’t wait for a pandemic to start “decision dumping.” Make decisions, even difficult ones, and lead with bold grace.

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