Deciding to be successful

WORKING WOMAN

May 02, 1993|By Niki Scott

The owner of a growing public relations business based in a Baltimore suburb talked about decision-making as an essential tool for driving a business -- or career -- to success. A woman in her 50s who started young and at the bottom, she spoke on a Saturday morning to young women who expect to match her success.

"I don't know anything that hampers a person more than the inability to make a decision," she said. "Even people who know they've done careful research and given a project their best let themselves get bogged down in indecisiveness. They fret and stew, and while they do this, they fail to make timely decisions.

"The success of my company depends on my employees' ability make quick, accurate decisions about complicated issues. The deadline pressure never lets up, so we don't have a lot of time for meetings or interoffice consultation," she said.

"We have to decide what to do, then do it -- and then start right away thinking about something else that'll make money while we oversee the first project.

"People who have trouble making decisions often are afraid of failure," she added. "And I'm sorry to have to tell you this, but in my experience the people who are most afraid of falling on their faces are women.

"Men are more likely to take an assignment and complete it -- without coming back to me half a dozen times for reassurance that they're doing it right.

"I don't claim to have the answers to why this is so, but I do believe that we were taught that making independent decisions is risky if you're female. There are at least two generations of women working today who got the message as children that they should look to whatever man is around before they make a decision.

"Two things we didn't learn is to make independent decisions on our own, and that failure is not the end of the world. In fact, you can make mistakes and still be a valuable member of your company's team."

had to agree with her. But times are changing. Women are present in the work force in growing numbers, and many have learned -- often the hard way -- how to make decisions for #F themselves and for others without reference to anyone, male or female.

We've risen to responsible positions, are running our own businesses, managing our own financial affairs, and often raising children alone, as well.

I'm from the "war baby" part of the baby boomers, and even though my mother had a successful career of her own, I learned that girls who took a stand or made independent decisions ended up alone and lonely.

We expected that once we were safely married to a younger Ozzie Nelson or Robert Young, we could settle in at home, raise the kids and maybe pick out our own living room curtains and kitchen appliances.

We were taught that tact and timing were our most important tools because they would help us to get men to accept a good idea from a woman.

It's hard to change this pattern of behavior, now that we work with (and not just for) men. It's hard to forget our fear of failure, when we must be decision-makers at work as well as at home. We're new at this business of taking action even though we might be wrong.

But avoiding decision-making isn't safe, either. People who refuse to decide and act, even if they might be wrong, do not move up.

Those who are willing to take calculated risks and make carefully considered choices and decisions, on the other hand, are the kind of employees that bosses reward.

) Universal Press Syndicate

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