The CEO called in his chief advisor, Bill.

“Bill, we’ve got to make a decision today on hiring your new engineer. You’ve interviewed the top 2 applicants, tested them and reference checked them. Which one should we go with?”

“Hard to say boss. Each has their own pros and cons”
“..and what do you say?”
“Whichever one you want .”
“Well, that’s all well and good, but I need your advice as well as your support.”
“Well, sir it’s hard to say at this time, they are both good.”
“I need a decision now. Bill, who is the best?”
“Uh, let me think about it and get back to you later, sir.”
“I need a decision now, Bill, should we hire Frank?”
“Should we hire John instead?”
The CEO threw his hands in the air and muttered dejectedly” “Thanks, that will be all”. As they filed out of the room, he shook his head. “Am I the only one that can make a decision around here?”

So how do we manage these types of people?
Dr Rick Brinkman and DR Rick Kirschner, authors of “Dealing with People you can’t stand” outline a simple process.

Step 1. Take a deep breath. Pushing for a decision from someone who does not know how to think decisively only will most likely end up with them even more stressed – and more indecisive.
Step 2. Help them think decisively. This is source of the problem. They don’t have a logical method or framework for deciding. They are seeking approval – your approval but are scared to make the wrong decision. If they had a decision making method, then they become more confident that they are making the right decision.

Let’s break this down teaching them to be able to make better decisions.

1) Create a safe space to talk about the issue. Acknowledge that there must be a good reason why they have not yet made decision. Let them know that they don’t have to be concerned about your feelings or opinions and that you value honesty above all else. Show in your body language that you really do care about helping them. You may even like to tell them that this conversation will be kept private.
“I know that there must be a good reason why you haven’t decided. If you’re concerned about my feelings or opinion, relax I assure you that your willingness to be honest with me is more important than anything else.”

2) Surface conflicts and clarify options. Patiently explore, from their point of view, all of the options and obstacles involved in making a decision. This may include people adversely affected by making a decision. Look for words of hesitation like “probably”, “I think so”, “pretty much”, “that could be true” and so on. If you here these words – explore deeper.

“Bill, you’re the Engineering Manager. There is no one better than you to make the call. Is there something going on for you regarding the decision that I should know about? You really can tell me.”

“Well probably John would be best”.

“When you say probably, it sounds to me that you’re not certain that he’s the best choice. Is there something about choosing him that wouldn’t work?”

“Well it’s not that, well it is. I mean how about Frank being friends with Director?”

Knowing John, it occurred to the CEO that he must have agonised over this. “Is that it? Are you worried about what the Director’s reaction?”

“Well, yes!”

3) Use a decision making system. There are heaps available so there’s no need to invent a new one. The Ben Franklin method is an old but a goody. List all choice options in separate columns, and lists the comparison points in rows.




Technical ability







Fit with team


Stable work history


Past success history


The simple act of visualizing makes the decision making process easier. It makes it clearer and gives them some to refer to later if asked.

4) Reassure them and ensure follow through. Once the decision has been made, let them know that there are no perfect decisions and that their decision is a good one. Stay in tough to ensure that they move forward with implementing it.

“That’s great, I think you’ve made a wise choice, when will you tell him?”

“As soon as we’ve done talking! Phew what a relief.”

“I’ll bet, drop by and let me k now how it went. I want to know what his reaction was”

5) Strengthen the relationship. This allows them to feel safe surfacing decision making challenges to you in the future, allowing a faster resolution.

“So Bill, one thing before I go. What have learned from this?”

“Well, one think I learned is that I can talk to you about this. I did noty know you’d be so understanding”

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