Have you ever worked for a leader who is the master of the managerial maneuver I call “using the back door”? See if any of these well-used tactics seem familiar to you.

  • Tries to drive his agenda passive aggressively with his team by relentlessly making suggestions but shying away from declarations
  • Asks his team to “double click” into something instead of telling them he disagrees with their analysis and conclusion
  • Pushes team members to disagree with their peers in discussions over issues about which he disagrees but doesn’t want to take an overt stance
  • Requests additional analysis or makes suggestive comments instead of stating a clear opinion

These behaviors are exhausting for his team, annoying, and not only drains goodwill, but shareholder resources (time, money, people, effort) as well.

One senior executive who works for a leader like this lamented, “I wish he would just say what he really wants and give the direction versus creating the illusion we have a choice. He doesn’t agree. We know he doesn’t agree. But why won’t he just say it?!?”

Does this sound like you? If it seems uncomfortably familiar, read on.

As Solomon sagely advised (as did the Byrds)—there is a season for everything. In the life of a business leader that is especially true. Some instances are ripe for healthy debate, wrestling with ambiguities, gathering data and feedback, and identifying the root cause of a problem. Most issues require all of this and more.

And then the time comes to make a call. Decision time.

This is not popularity time. Or consensus time. Or let’s-double-click-one-more-time time. You must make a decision—declare it—and then engage your leaders in executing it.

Prevaricating. Asking for more data (for the tenth time). Masking your disagreement by posing endless questions. These are behaviors ill-suited to an effective leader. And waiting until everyone agrees with you is the worst sin of all . . . because it is unlikely to ever happen.

The beauty of using the front door is that it is built for one purpose: to grant easy, efficient access to where you want to go. Timely, declarative decisions are the same.

When you are a leader, your job is to lead, and that means making lots of decisions. Not hair-trigger, off-the-cuff, uninformed, unilateral decisions, mind you (I had to qualify this for all you spontaneous combustors out there), but informed, fact-based, and timely decisions achieved through whatever generally inclusive method your company culture expects or employs.

Your team needs to know the difference between discussion time and “go time.”

Your team yearns for clarity.

Your team revels in moving forward—taking action—after being heard out.

Give your team (and your organization) a break and make that decision you’ve been putting off. It’s not just keeping you up at night—it’s driving them crazy.

Use the front door.