I was on patrol on an empty street when suddenly two men exploded through a door and rolled to the ground. Pummeling each other with their fists while locked together and rolling on the ground, it was obvious that these two were out to hurt each other, so I drew my nightstick and stepped in to put an end to the fight. Before I knew what was happening, I was on the ground with my nightstick across my throat and my 45 pistol pointed at my head.
My patrol area was a street in MP City; an area of old barracks located near the Military Police School at Fort Gordon, Georgia. It was my first week of military police school and I had just learned an important lesson about acting before thinking. The official proper response was to blow my whistle to alert other MP’s that I needed help and to startle the combatants; and then until help arrived, to try to break up the fight without physical contact. The unofficial old soldier response was to wait until the fight was over and arrest the loser!
As we patrol the streets of our lives, when we face challenges that are sudden and unexpected, occasionally we react without thinking: diving in, grabbing hold of the problem and sometimes ending up with a gun at our head. Unless one pulled a gun or knife, in a minute or two the two guys wrestling on the ground couldn’t do too much to harm one another. Likewise, most crises we face do not have to be solved immediately.
To successfully deal with problems requires following a process that includes the following actions:
. Assess the seriousness and immediacy of the situation. Is it really a crisis and does it have to be dealt with at this instant? Be particularly cautious when people try to rush you into a decision.
. Take time to investigate and determine the details: who, what, where, and when. Remember the scene in the Godfather when Don Corleone tells Michael that whoever brings him an offer of a deal from the rival family is a traitor? Be dubious of the facts as told to you.
. Involve all affected in developing alternative solutions. You don’t want to learn after a decision was made that there could have been a better answer.
. Follow the “path of the heart.” The path of the heart is the sum of your experiences, knowledge and beliefs. In life, there are those who urge you to do “things right” follow the rules; dot every “i” and cross every “t.” When often the better course is to do the “right things”, consider the long-term effects of your decisions; and, whether they reflect you and your company’s values.
When you can’t come to a decision, remember the old soldiers advice to wait until the fight is over and arrest the loser. Some problems, particularly when it comes to those occasioned by people are unsolvable. In those instances, no decision is a decision to let events take place and then work out the consequences.
“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” – Thomas Sowell
“Whenever I make a bum decision, I go out and make another one.” – Harry Truman