Coaching to Core Ideals – Tough and Timely Decisions

This is another post in the series Coaching to Core Ideals.

The IDEAL LEADER is 1) Visionary, 2) Authentic, 3) Disciplined, 4) Accessible, and 5) a Strategic Learner. See the Coaching to Core Ideals post to get a quick overview and context for the series. We are going to break each sub-topic down over the next few weeks.


  1. Makes tough decisions in a timely manner
  2. Talks straight and moves forward with feedback effectively and courageously
  3. Does not make their problems anyone else’s, they own them and act accordingly

When I started to write about Coaching to Core Ideals it was my inaugural attempt at posting to a blog that I had set up last spring. Coming up with ideas and subjects are not the issue for me. I needed to get into the practice of writing and to be disciplined (not as in punished!) in my writing. My belief is that once I start posting I have made a commitment. Commitment is a way of being intellectually and emotionally bound to a purposeful action. When I start up with new clients we begin with defining this word, so that we both live and language with a common understanding of what it means when we say…”I commit”. BEING DISCIPLINED implies that you understand how to make and keep commitments to yourself and to others—AND do it repeatedly over time. Understanding commitment has everything to do with the ability in making tough decisions.

I’m in this writing adventure for the long haul. Here I am 6 weeks or so later and this is my 9th post. I have been pleasantly surprised at having hundreds of views and growing connections with others who are interested in being a lifelong learner and growing as a leader. Our communities and businesses need leaders to aspire to Core Ideals in every aspect of their lives. There is a growing demand within our families, our communities, our work place, and this planet (that grows smaller) every day. My goal is to help leaders understand commitment and the discipline it takes to be the Ideal Leader others need and want you to be.

I make this commitment to write—first to myself and equally to you as a learner and a leader, I will keep writing and finish this series—even if only one person were to read these posts AND take on the actions, rigor, and discipline required to succeed at their calling as a leader.  Leading, like writing, has its fundamental disciplines.  It takes time, consistent practice, and a clear focus on the end result. In my younger impetuous youth the word discipline was more associated with punishment. Writing and leading feel like punishment sometimes if you don’t have a clear “line of sight” to the end goal. Faced with many other demands on your time; it becomes critical that you can make choices to focus and stay on task.

Some decisions are the proverbial “no brainer”. It is obvious what needs to happen. How about a tough decision that needed to be made quickly and in a timely fashion? It might be that you don’t have all the information you need and— your business’ very existence is at stake. We struggle with making decisions when we lack perspective. What can I anchor to when it really counts? Ideal leaders get better and better at making tough and timely decisions. I believe this is because they work hard at gaining perspective and points of view that serve as a guide—and this is a constant. This is why expert coaching has a huge ROI for leaders. It is all about perspective and being proactive. Ideally you capitalize on the learning from past judgment and tough calls based on the experience of others in your network.

I was in a powerful conversation with a client recently and the discussion evolved to the 2 biggest and influential elements in decision making. They are time and pressure. The things that of which diamonds are made.

1.       Time – Could also be called “Timing”.  It has to do with timeliness of decisions.

a. What amount of time has been afforded you is not in your control in many of the situations. It is a circumstance to be dealt with—either accepted or overcome. Terminal cancer patients are given a time estimate that they may influence, but likely won’t avoid. Truth is, we are all terminal—the terminal cancer patient just has a better estimate. Making timely decisions requires extraordinary skills in leading teams and businesses to overcome obstacles of time.

b. Some opportunities have “THE WINDOW” (you know the cliché). When the “window of opportunity” passes there is no option for – “I’ll do it later”. The opportunity bus stopped, you had a chance to get on, and you hesitated or just reached back for your bags—it left the curb and drove off with you left standing in a cloud of exhaust fumes.  Just that fast “opportunity” was gone! The old saying—“Opportunity only knocks once” is no longer true.  Life and work is moving so fast now, that I don’t think opportunity even takes time to knock at all anymore. It slows up just enough for you to recognize it and you run alongside and jump on board.

2.       Pressure –Is about intensity and importance. It has to do with the level of impact of decisions.

a. Under Pressure” the Queen and David Bowie song always plays in my head when I hear the word. “Pressure pushing down on me…” Defining the degree of pressure on your decisions can begin in clearly understanding the critical success factors vital to reaching necessary outcomes. The pressure to perform is a good thing in my book. Life is full of expectations and winners/leaders want to take on the challenge.

b. No doubt some people want the ball on fourth down even though they may end up failing. You may have heard the phrase “glass balls”. This business metaphor refers to identifying those key items or “glass balls”—that if dropped would be extremely detrimental to the success of a business. You need to know where you are vulnerable and not live in a dream world. Every business goes through some stress and testing and you need to know where you are weakest.  The tough decisions may involve minimizing the damage and living to fight another day.

Discipline was not something that was “put off” in my family growing up. It usually was quite timely, swift, and sometimes painful to my backside. Yes, my dad would open up a can of “whoop ass” on me—and you know I had it coming. Why? Because I was the kid that would weigh the pain of punishment against the fun I thought the mischief might bring me. It was a tough decision, but I weighed the options. That’s pretty sick really. But my stubbornness needed to be molded by discipline into focusing that youthful energy towards positive and productive behavior. I appreciate a Dad and Mom (they are in Heaven now) who cared enough to discipline me. If discipline was ever slightly delayed it was to protect my dignity and so that it could be done in private. I’m not sure it was my parents’ first choice of activities, I was sure sometimes it was a tough decision on my parents’ part to administer. They had a set of ideals and values they used as guidelines—they were molding me into an adult. Some of the toughest leadership calls come in our relationships with friends and family.

Just like my mom and dad; making tough and timely decisions are less stressful if you know where you are taking your family, organization, or yourself. It requires commitment and the ability to trust yourself to do it.


  1. #1 by Debra Stamp on 01/16/2011 - 10:43 pm

    For whatever reason, this line is going to stick:
    you had a chance to get on and you hesitated, or just reached back for your bags

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