But did you make a decision?

If a leader makes a decision but does not communicate it, did they really make a decision?

The above question may bring up images of buddhists monks asking questions like “What is the sound of one hand clapping” or “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?” On the surface the well known question involving ill- fated trees, it seems a bit absurd. Of all the trees that have ever been cut down and observed, has any done so without making noise? As far as we know, there’s never been a silent tree falling.

But the question forces us to return to the definition of sound, which dictionary.com defined as

“the sensation produced by stimulation of the organs of hearing by vibrations transmitted through the air or other medium”

While a tree falling would in fact create vibrations in the air, by this definition, no sound would be produced since no ears (“organs of hearing”) would be around to detect it and create the sensation we interpret as sound. Careful examanition of the definition of sound gives us an interesting answer.

Which brings me to my leadership question for this article: if a leader makes a decision but doesn’t communicate it, have they really made a decision? A decision implies action. In a business organization, can action be taken without communicating to others? Perhaps, or perhaps not. It may depend on the nature of
the action.

While the true answer to my question may be nuanced, just like the question of the falling tree, its intended to make you consider. If you make a decision, who needs to know that you made the decision? What public action must you take in order for others to understand the decision you made and its ramification on the organization? Decisions are not made in a forest where no one else is around. Decisions are made within the confines of an organization and will impact it.

Next time you make a decision, consider the falling tree and ask yourself, who needs to know that I made this decision?