Linda Goldstein Consulting

The Swing Vote

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Making Tough Decisions

Tensions are high at City Hall.

Residents have filled all the seats in the Council Chambers. Reporters with microphones, television cameras and spotlights are scattered throughout the overflow crowd standing along the walls.

The crowd is here for a public hearing regarding a controversial development project. Everyone in the audience has taken a side and wants to voice their opinion on which of two developers has the best plan and should be chosen for the project.

After hearing the two proposals and listening to the public’s comments, it’s time for the elected officials to express their views before voting.

One alderman has recused himself, so only six elected officials weigh in. It is apparent that the vote will be a tie…neither company will win the project. The mayor announces “I’m going to delay the vote until our next meeting. We have a new alderman being sworn in later this evening, and we’ll have seven people voting then.”

There’s total chaos as everyone vacates the Council chambers, the press racing after the developers for their statements. But I remain seated…stunned and speechless…until I’m called to the front of the empty room to be sworn in.

I am the swing vote.

Before running for office, I anticipated that I would face tough decisions. That began with my very first day in office and continued until I retired fourteen years later.

We all make a variety of decisions every day. Some are so routine that we make them without giving them much thought. But difficult or challenging decisions demand more consideration. Here are a few tips to help you make better decisions:

  1. Determine how important or urgent the decision is. Step back, take a deep breath, and gather your thoughts. Other than emergencies, many decisions don’t have to be made instantly. Take the time you need to think clearly and logically.
  2. Do some research, gather facts, collect data. What information and resources do you need? Ask for others’ perspectives on the issue; who will be affected by your decision?
  3. Consider your options and the consequences of each option. What’s the worst that can happen and how likely is it to happen? Take time to think through the best course of action for everyone involved.
  4. Think about similar situations and past decisions. What’s worked? What hasn’t?
  5. If you’re still undecided go with your intuition. Even if there’s no perfect solution, making a decision that aligns with your personal values will give you peace of mind that you did your best.

If you get the decision wrong, admit your mistake, try to correct the error, and learn from the experience. Don’t beat yourself up. If you’re honest with people, they will respect you for trying. Just be sure to analyze what went wrong so you don’t make the same mistake twice.

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