Dithering, dawdling and decisiveness

Oct 08 2008 by Charles Helliwell Print This Article

If you're running a business, managing a department, or just trying to find a way through the current maze, you'll find yourself vacillating between any or all of the 3D's as you search for the most appropriate choices to make.

Dithering, Dawdling and Decisiveness come as naturally to all of us as drawing breath. And yet, how swift we are to condemn those whose only error is to linger too long in any of these conditions, as the markets continue their turmoil.

Bankers and politicians just happen to be the most obvious and visible targets at the moment. OK, so let's not forgive the politicians completely, because many of them have made a career out of dithering and dawdling, only taking decisions and basking in the glow of their considerable hindsight, long after the rest of us have moved on to the next challenge.

So, was the decision of US Treasury Secretary, Henry (Hank) Paulson, to recommend the immediate release of US$700Bn to buy so-called toxic investments from the banks, a poor decision ? We will never know; because whilst the politicians dithered and dawdled, Wall Street continued to burn.

Of course, Joe Six-pack was angry. I was, and I still am; and so I suspect are most of the World's population who are yet to feel the true fallout from such profligate and irresponsible practices.

However, decisive times require decisive measures and whether or not Paulson's proposals were designed to bail-out his chums on Wall Street or provide an immediate and decisive response to the current crisis, will no doubt exercise economists and historians, for many years to come.

The outcome of all of these shenanigans and the diving for cover to implement a series of protect-our-own-strategies of the EC economies, which sparked the biggest plunge in share price indexes since 1987, has highlighted our most basic and innate human behaviour. Self-Protection. That's what we do first, when the fabric of our very essence is threatened.

Abraham Maslow described it as a hierarchy of needs, in his paper 'A Theory of Motivation', published in 1943. When our primal needs of physiology and safety are threatened, any thoughts of self-actualisation, esteem and belonging take a back seat; and that's where we are today.

So, what's next ?

Strong Leadership; but leadership requires many of the characteristics of self-actualisation and esteem. Characteristics such as creativity, spontaneity, problem-solving, confidence and respect. And which World leaders are actively demonstrating such qualities today ? Sadly, none immediately spring to mind and that's the dilemma we currently face.

We expect our leaders, be they politicians or business people, to be strong, confident and decisive, particularly when the going gets tough. But no, they are behaving in a distinctly Neroesque manner, by dithering and dawdling; leaving us all to take our own decisive actions instead; and that's tough.

Taking leadership decisions which might affect our job, our career, our family and our lives is not something that many of us are comfortable with. We've become far too comfortable at dawdling and it is far easier to slip back into a state of dithering than go forward and be decisive. There's too much risk; too much uncertainty and that uncomfortable knot of fear of the unknown.

However, this is not a time to be faint-hearted, so pick up the challenge, be decisive, back yourself and your judgement, and don't allow yourself to get suckered into the safe option of dithering or dawdling.

As for myself, I'm afraid that I'm an inveterate dawdler. I've made a career out if, so I'm now off to make myself another cup of tea; but then again - perhaps I won't. Oh dear !


About The Author

Charles Helliwell
Charles Helliwell

For almost 20 years, Charles Helliwell has been enjoying a lifestyle and making a living as a behavioural and relationship mentor specialising in the personal and professional development of individuals and teams in the workplace.