You’re driving down the road in a convoy in north Africa, when one of the vehicles breaks down. You’re trying to sort the vehicle out and see if it’s fixable or if you need to abandon it. While this is happening, a crowd is gathering around you and the vehicle – it’s now become a security situation. The risks have escalated rapidly. You need to make a decision, and fast.
Maybe someone in your convoy has gotten sick. You don’t know how things are going to develop, but I can tell you now that if you take someone who’s got dysentery into the desert on a field trip, they could go downhill very rapidly. So you might have to decide whether to turn around. That might not be very popular, but it’s a decision you’ve got to make for the security and welfare of the whole team.
Making a decision is the right one
At International Intelligence, we employ people all over the world with police and military backgrounds. Very often, they’re on the ground so, when a problem occurs, they’re the first on the scene.
I work very much on the ethos that making a decision – any decision – is the right thing to do. It may not be a life and death decision (although with protective security, we do find ourselves in those situations), but very often they’re decisions that could affect the reputation of our clients.
When making a snap decision, most of it is based on experience and gut feeling. There is some sound judgment in there, but you’re sometimes making judgments in a matter of seconds. It’s not easy being that person.
The traits of good decision-makers
When it comes to finding the right people, I want the sort of person who’d use a saucepan to knock a nail in. It’s a bit of a strange analogy, but what I mean is: I want somebody who’s going to do the job with whatever they have available to them. You’ve got to be able to deliver. There are so many people that work in security who I would say, if push came to shove, they wouldn’t be able to do what was necessary.
As long as the client gets away unharmed (or your goal was achieved), you’ve actually made the right decision. It might not look pretty or stuck to the textbook, but as long as it worked, that’s all that matters.
You’re the only one making those decisions, so you’ve got to own them. It’s your name at the bottom of the witness statement, so they say.
How to make better snap decisions:
- Keep your goals in mind: Make sure your decision is influenced by your objectives
- Don’t be paralysed by failure: It’s better to act than do nothing. If the decision doesn’t work, you can learn from it
- Trust your instincts: Your own experiences will feed your decision-making. Allow yourself to tap into them
- Own your decisions: You need to back your thinking, whether it worked or not. The more you own your decision-making, the more confident you’ll be when push comes to shove
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