“Let’s Make a Deal”

Flipping channels at the gym the other morning, I stumbled across a show I used to watch when I was too sick to go to school: Let’s Make A Deal. When I tuned in, the host was handing a woman a $700 check. He told her, “You can keep the check, or you can have what’s behind the curtain.”

Cautious people keep the money; risk-takers choose the curtain, the box, or the next envelope.

Leaders are paid to make decisions in time of certainty and in times of uncertainty. Most leaders have a propensity to lean one way or the other: they are either cautious or risk-takers.  The best leaders know their natural tendency, and they surround themselves with people who lean the other way. That keeps them balanced.

What do leaders do once they’ve made a decision?  Or, in Let’s Make A Deal language…

  • You take the money; you miss out on a $40,000 car…
  • You take the curtain; you win a donkey…
  • You take the money; you miss out on a lifetime supply of Spam…
  • You take the curtain; you win a lifetime supply of Spam…

Average leaders will obsess about the outcome. If the outcome is outstanding, they will ride that success for as long as they can.  They will regale others with how great their decision was, and they will try for an immediate sequel.  If the outcome of their decision is  not as good or better than they anticipated, they become distracted.  They become gun-shy, slow to act, or second-guess their next decision.

When great leaders make a decision, they learn from both mistakes and successes. They use each experience to enable even better future decision-making. They accept responsibility for both the decision and the end result.  They don’t allow for long periods of self-congratulations after a success; likewise, they don’t wallow in misery for weeks after a failure. They move on to the next decision they need to address.

So what did the contestant do? She took the curtain, and her gamble got her 3 flat screen televisions. She seemed thrilled. But I wondered how many people watching might have been saying to themselves:

“Great!  I already have more TVs than I can use!  I wonder what I can sell those for on eBay? They better not expect me to load those up in my car today…”

Want to be a great leader?  Make the best decision you can with the information you have at your disposal.  Be prepared to justify your actions if it’s a failure; be prepared to thank others for their counsel and support if it’s a success.  And either way, be prepared to move on to the next opportunity.

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