0 Steps Forward, 2 Steps Back: The Cost of Inaction

By James C. Price

We’ve all been there – the crossroads of a major decision. Whether it’s to expand your business into a new city or hire an extra employee for growing consumer demands, big decisions are constantly looming over us. One of the biggest fears that keeps leaders from taking a step forward is fear of making the wrong decision, so many opt out of making a decision altogether. The simple truth about “opting out” is it is just as much of a decision as choosing one of the options at hand. And as many leaders may know, non-decisions are just as much a decision as proactive innovation – though the costs are much higher.

RL10-08-13Cost of Coasting

One thing most leaders have in common is the dreaded F word: failure. It’s at the heart of entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, and more; and its reach stretches further than most success stories. But the inspiring part of failure is that it can drive people to greatness, like it did for Thomas Edison for example. When asked about his failures during the process of inventing the light bulb, Edison simply said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” The problem lies when people outweigh the potential negative outcomes with the possible positive ones. This is the state of inaction: when leaders don’t want to fail by choosing the wrong option and they take no step forward. Instead, coasting through and not moving forward can actually hinder your business. By failing to move forward, your business is threatened by the reality of losing a competitive advantage over competitors. And if you’re staying stagnate while your competitors are moving forward, then you are falling two steps behind.

Signs of Indecision Makers

You may be an indecisive decision maker or you may have a manager who is, but either way, it’s important to identify some of the tell-tale signs of such a leader. This frozen-by-options type of rut is also identified as analysis paralysis, so identifying it may be as easy as taking a step back and seeing if any of these traits apply. First, you or one of your team leaders is constantly adding more and more to the checklist at work without any sign of completion. Secondly, the leader is continuously taking opinions from individuals who don’t have the experience or know-how to give sound advice. Tertiary, seemingly simple decisions take longer to determine and end up holding a project or budget from being approved. If any of these issues apply, you or your team member may be dealing with the inability to move forward.

The Struggle Persists

Usually, identifying problems is the hardest part of fixing issues and growing as a leader. But simply determining a problem doesn’t make it go away. And if you or one of your team leaders are struggling with inaction, taking a step to remedy this won’t be easy. But with a few quick tips, proactive decision making and innovation are only a step away.

Journal: Take time each day to write down each decision that freezes forward movement.
Checklist: Put simple tasks on a checklist to see improvement throughout the day.
Accountability: Get a partner to help sift through some of the biggest inactions and encourage taking steps forward.

Inaction doesn’t have to paralyze you and your team, but when left to its own vices, the cost of inaction can cause you to fall behind in a constant battle of innovation and competitive advantage.

Have you or any of your business leaders struggled with inaction? How has it affected your business? Let us know in the comments section below!

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