A tough call is a  decision you know you should make because in the long run it will help you or your family or your organisation. But you find you find yourself hesitating to make it for a whole variety of reasons – some good and some maybe not so good.

1 The Need For Courage

In my life I’ve faced tough calls on a whole variety of issues – some apparently minor and some major:

– to commit to regular exercise.

– to start a regular prayer and meditation routine.

– to stop watching TV and the daily news so as to improve my mood and free up time for more meaningful activities.

– to call an end to friendships and relationships that were one-sided and not going in a positive direction.

– to end the connection with certain organisations or teams that I had come to the conclusion were not going in a direction I agreed with or were incompatible with my values.

Making these tough calls for enduring a certain amount of pain – and that is why we all hesitate to make them. Although the pain can never completely go away, there are 5 simple steps John Maxwell suggests that we can take to make the process easier to handle:

1. Do your homework.
So often the temptation is to make a tough call immediately. The saying ‘act in haste, repent at leisure’ then becomes so relevant. How many of us have written an email or spoken something immediately only to wish a few hours later we had never said what we did? To acquire wisdom it is often necessary to carefully research all the options and the potential consequences of each option. On top of that you may have to think through the effects of the decision on the other people who are likely to be affected. As there will be pros and cons it is vital that you give time to do all the due diligence that is necessary.

2. Set a deadline.
The opposite temptation when it comes to tough calls is to delay making a decision indefinitely. The reality is not making a decision is by default a decision. The challenge is giving enough time to gather all the facts and acquire the right amount of wisdom while at the same time not leaving it so long that not making a decision is the actual decision. That is why a time limit is vital.

3. Search out advice from the right people.
As you think through a tough call it is so helpful to have the perspective of trusted, objective outsiders who have some experience in what you are dealing with. They can see things you might otherwise have missed. If they are older and wiser than you they may also be able to encourage you with the long term results of the decision.

4. Ensure any decision you make is based on values and principles that you believe in and are congruent with who you are.
The management teacher, the late Peter Drucker talks of the ‘mirror test’ and gives a powerful example of this:
“At the beginning of the 20th century the most highly respected diplomat of all the great powers was the German ambassador in London. He was clearly destined for great things – to become his country’s foreign minister, at least, if not the federal chancellor. Yet in 1906 he abruptly resigned rather than preside over a dinner given by the diplomatic corps for Edward VII. The king was a notorious womaniser and made it clear what kind of dinner he wanted. The ambassador is reported to have said, ‘I refuse to see a pimp in the mirror in the morning when I shave.'”

5. Think through the emotions and implications of making the tough call.
In the short term tough calls involve some level of suffering. It is very hard to get round that or sugar coat it. Anything that is really worth doing is going to involve some degree of pain. The key is to keep the long term benefit or reward in mind.

Here is John Maxwell’s perspective on this:

Are tough calls worth all the time, energy and agony they involve? Absolutely. Why am I so sure? Because every time I’ve had to make a tough call in my life, it lifted my leadership to a higher level. In other words it led to a breakthrough.
Read this very carefully: You are only one tough call away from a breakthrough. Isn’t that encouraging? You get a breakthrough by making a call you don’t want to make even though its the right thing to do. And when you make that call, you suddenly take yourself, your company or your family to a whole new level.

What tough call have you been putting off? How could you apply these 5 simple steps to your own life?