Community & Government

Decision-Making and Prioritization

Bill Clinton

Lesson time 15:05 min

Hear how President Clinton navigates tough decisions in uncertain situations—and how you can accomplish your goals and address crises as they arise.

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Topics include: Respect the Process · Don't Be Paralyzed by Indecision · Remain Open to Changing Your Mind · Pick Your Battles · Get Caught Trying · Look Around the Corner


[MUSIC PLAYING] - If you have what looks on the surface at least to be a no-win decision-- that is, if somebody's going to be mad at you no matter what-- then I think the best thing to do is to take it head on right from the beginning and say, I have reached the decision that I believe is best, for the company, for the foundation, or the you name it. And I think that it won't make anybody fully happy. And I'm sorry about that. But in the end, it was my call to make. I did-- I consulted with all of you. I listened. I looked at all the facts. I thought about this nine different ways. And I made this decision. And I do want you to know, I did hear you. I did try to take into account your interests. And here is why I made the decision I did. In other words, if you're going to make a decision that makes everybody mad and the everybody includes people you need to help you succeed in this business, you owe it to them to explain it as best you can, because there really are decisions that don't have a win-win outcome. There really are decisions, particularly over things that have already gone a little bit rotten, where you can't please anyone if you do the right thing. So the next best thing to pleasing people when you have to make a decision is making them respect the process and the rigor and the honesty with which you did what you did. [MUSIC PLAYING] When a leader is seeking advice, as comforting as it might be to be told, well, look at all these smart people we've got, and you're smart, and here's what's obvious to do. There are some times when the blizzard of conflicting facts make a decision much more like pursuing an answer in a scientific lab than doing a math problem for which there is an actual and provable answer. So-- and you got to just think about that. You've got to be comfortable with that kind of ambiguity and just say, boy, I have done the best I can. Now it's time to make a decision, and here's where we are. I remember people that I really liked and admired who would say, well, clearly you should do this, that, or the other thing. And I knew I couldn't do that. And then I realized that they didn't know and couldn't know all the pressures working on me. Or even if they did, they didn't have the same responsibilities I did that would make the-- weigh the different factors as I did. Like Dwight Eisenhower working out the logistics in the Normandy invasion-- he actually was right about most of them. But the main thing was there was a plan. There was an execution strategy. And it was well led. So it didn't matter that everybody who parachuted into Normandy the night before got in there safely and performed perfectly. You know, there was some failure. There's always going to be some failure. The whole idea was, if you're right more than you're wrong, this is a risk worth taking. But we owe it to these people to have the best plan we can, knowing that it won't take account of everything. So-- but eve...

About the Instructor

Commander in chief from 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime navigating complex challenges and bridging deep divides. Now the 42nd president of the United States teaches you how to be an effective, empathetic leader. Learn how to assemble, inspire, and empower diverse teams, mediate conflict, manage criticism—and create a personal framework to guide you and your team toward a shared vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Clinton

Drawing from his career in politics, President Bill Clinton teaches you how to inspire diverse teams, manage criticism, and mediate conflict.

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