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The Departing Train Effect: How To Effectively Combat Indecisiveness & Get Stuff Done

It turns out decisiveness is a powerful way to win and succeed big. But, even a slight hesitation can lead to failure.

How do you feel about its opposite cohort, indecisiveness? If there was a way to effectively combat it, would you be interested?

Indecisiveness is brutal for both the leader and the follower but for many young leaders especially, this behavior is widespread. And much of it, at least for me, was fearfully driven by the expected response of those I was leading. 

Not wanting to shake the boat or cause people to dislike us leads to bad decision making and paralysis. So whether your a leader or a follower, there is a simple practice for minimizing indecisiveness and effectively eliciting helpful feedback.

The Departing Train Effect. We set a date to move, and we act. We don’t wait for approval or feedback, and when the time arrives we just go (after clear and repeated communication). 

It’s a helpful strategy, but the lines are grey in every direction. If you prefer black and white, good and bad delineations this approach may not be for you. While it's effective, it's tricky to use.

Examples In Action

Let me share a few examples of the departing train effect in action.  

Blair Enns, writer of the Win Without Pitching Manifesto (affiliate) explains what he calls the magic email. His loop closing email is where a salesperson who has unsuccessfully cultivated a prospect relationship assumes the contact has moved in a different direction and informs them they'll follow suit. Here is Enn's template.

Subject: Closing The Loop
Hi [FirstName];
I haven’t heard back from you on [project/opportunity] so I’m going to assume you’ve gone in a different direction or your priorities have changed.
Let me know if we can be of assistance in the future.

It's quite simple and illustrates the Departing Train Effect. I've made a decision to move on and I'm letting you know about it. I’ve used this magic email myself and often causes the recipient to respond. Closing the loop is a great last step to take when all others have failed.  

And whether you like it or not, like an actual train leaving the station, I’m moving on with or without you. But, it's not without warning, usually several. 

When you learn to embrace this technique, you'll get stuff done and get the feedback you need. 

Recently, I published an article from a client. Because of the nature of it, I wanted the owner to review for accuracy. But, it wasn't until it was published and the email to inform the email list was scheduled that the feedback for improvement was provided. And whether I got the feedback or not, the email was going out.

Warning: Be Aware, There Are Risks

But, this approach is not one without risk. In fact, you might resist not only how it leans into conflict, but also the real world consequences of acting without permission.

To illustrate my point, imagine the work our client or boss has tasked us with is collecting a treasure on the other side of the field. Unfortunately, they left out this is a minefield. 

As we walk out, BOOM! We step on a mine and blow up ourself causing all kinds of problems. In some of these cases, the customer looks at us at the problem when all we did was illuminate what was already there. 

When we persist, we map out the minefield and begin removing them to provide a safe field for easily and effectively collecting the treasure. 

My point is, when we act decisively and it does not go well or we get caught up in some problem, we’ll be right smack center with no escape. 

And for this reason, many people operate with timidity and paralysis fearful of those explosions. They’d prefer to stay still. 

Doers, Don't Stand Still

"People love using strategy as a disguise for non-action." - Gary Vaynerchuk

As a contractor, I’m not paid to stand still, I’m paid to get stuff done. And many times it’s doing so when the very obstacles are the people hiring me. 

But the meaningful opportunity allows me to build and provide a safe context for others and the company to benefit from. Paving the way for something much better. This, along with getting paid well, makes it well worth it. 

So, the next time you face indecisiveness, let them know, the train is departing the station in ten minutes. 

Additional Resources

Hero Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

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