The Chronicle of HE yesterday described a university that was struggling with morale. The university hired Disney to teach employees how to feel better about themselves, how to get along, etc.–more on Disney as consultant later–but what caught my eye was mention of the problem some employees were having:
Last year, the university paid the Disney Institute, a consulting arm of the Walt Disney Company, to administer a climate survey to faculty and staff. The results shed light on what the institute called a major disconnect between managers and their employees, a lack of transparency, and a “debilitating fear” of making a decision or a mistake.
We learn that the culture at said university was very risk averse. Furthermore,
Disney concluded, from the survey results and also from in-person interviews, that a “pervasive, long-held, and debilitating fear of making a decision or a mistake” grips “most everyone in their daily routines — staff, leaders, and faculty alike,” according to a January internal email that summarized the feedback.
The diagnosis caught my attention, because I find I frequently feel that “debilitating fear” of making a decision. Until now, I’ve assumed that my fear stems from a character flaw or a chemical imbalance. But the idea that its cultural–part of the organizational culture in which I work–gives me pause.
I found a Forbes article, Four Reason Leaders Are Too Afraid of Making the Wrong Decisions. The four reasons are:
- Afraid of losing control
- Lack courage to challenge status quo
- Too much change management
- Playing it safe is their security
The article concludes:
Everyone wants to be the hero. No one wants to be the scapegoat. And so no one wants to risk making the wrong decision. But that’s what real leaders do every day – automatically. If instead they give in to fear and uncertainty, they risk so much more. They risk not seeing the opportunities that are right in front of them.
Back to that risk aversion, which leads to that debilitating fear of making a decision because it may be wrong, you may fail, you may not convince everyone that you made the decision for good reasons, to capitalize on an opportunity, to change the culture. The safe road or the new path? That is the choice.