It is the temptations to ensure that your decisions are correct.

Andrew looked confused, so Charlie clarified.

“It’s the temptation to choose certainty over clarity. Some executives fear to be wrong so much that they wait until they’re absolutely certain about something before they make a decision. That makes it impossible to hold people accountable.

“I’m not sure I’m following you.”

It’s simple. You can’t hold people accountable for things that aren’t clear. If you’re unwilling to make decisions with limited information. You can’t achieve clarity.

“Okay. I get it. But what kind of things you are talking about?”

“Simple things. Important things. Like why the company is in business. It’s goals. The roles and responsibility of people in organizations to meet those goals. The consequence of success and failure. All that stuff.”

Andrew nodded. “Vision, mission values, goals, business school stuff. Don’t take this wrong Charlie, but none of this is new.

“So then, what is your mission of the future for Trinity?”

Andrew frowned and scratched his shoulder like a kid trying to avoid a scolding.

Charlie was surprised. “Don’t you know?”

“Yeah, it’s just we are having a hard time settling on the right way to explain it. In fact, we will probably discuss it again tomorrow at the board meeting.”

“How long you have been working on this?”

Andrew squirmed a little, a month? Two?”

Andrew finally admitted for eight months.

Charlie was genuinely surprised. Eight months?! What in god’s name is taking so long?”

Well, it’s just the market is changing and we’re trying to try to figure out whether our current business is going to be able to sustain.

Charlie interrupted. “I’m sorry, Andy, but this is ridiculous. And please excuse me for saying this, because I haven’t known you very long, but not having a vision is no one’s fault but your own.

Charlie leans forward. “Stay with me here, Andy. I’m going to ask you some tough questions.

“Okay. What is preventing you from coming to some conclusions on something as big and important as your company’s vision?

“I wish I knew/”

“You do know, Andy. It’s just that you have to admit to yourself. Face your fears. You must have some idea about what the future of your company looks like.”

“Sure I do.”

“So why haven’t you put it on paper, announced it to be the company, and used it to guide the decisions you make?”

After a long pause. Andrew slowly quietly responded. “Because I’m not sure it’s right yet.

Charlie asked, were you ever in the military?

He shook his head.

Well, in the military, they teach you that any decision is better than no decision.

Andrew struggled for relief, I’ll tell you what, Charlie. I think the whole vision; mission thing is overrated.

“I agree. I think I think that having a great vision and mission is only important if you know how to execute a company over a visionary one day.”

For the first time, Charlie became emotional. There aren’t supposed to be easy answers. Andy. That’s why you get paid so much. But you have to come up with the answers. Otherwise, there is no accountability. And without accountability, the results are a matter of luck.

“Then where is your vision, Andy? Where are your goals?

Make darn call on something. What are you waiting for?”

Andrew calmly spoke, what’s my problem here Charlie?

Let me tell you something. From what I can tell, many CEOs have the same problems. They finally get the job they’ve always wanted, and they become afraid to lose their status. Or they don’t want to hold people accountable because they are afraid to be unpopular, they don’t hold people accountable because they are haven’t bothered to be clear about what they expect from people because-

Andrew finished the rest of the lesson. “Because they are afraid to be wrong.”

“Exactly.” Charlie let Andrew digest this message: Then: My father used to say that there three words which were the most powerful thing a CEO could say. Do you know what are those?

Andrew shook his head.


Andrew was now ready to help. So must have made a lot of bad decisions.

“Sure he did. And he owned those decisions. But he never felt guilty about them because he knew that he can’t move forward in the face of uncertainty if you aren’t willing to make mistakes. And gradually he made fewer and fewer mistakes. In fact, people said he developed an amazing ability to make a good decision without enough information. They thought he was really smart.

“So how did he learn to make such a great decision.”

“Well, he avoided temptations number four.”


With respect.


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