An American friend, who lived in another country for several years, recently returned to United States. She told me that there was a basic cultural difference she noticed about Americans and the people with whom she interacted in the other country.
She explained, “The people in the country where I previously lived are reluctant to make commitments too far into the future. If my husband and I wanted to schedule a dinner with another couple a week or two in advance, we would often be told that this was too far in the future. We were encouraged to ask again a day or two ahead of the suggested date.”
I replied, “You may be surprised to discover that this ‘wait and see’ attitude has creeped into the American culture.”
Many people seem to be less and less committed to, well, making commitments. Since options seem to abound just about everywhere, many people are reluctant to say, “Yes.” to an offer today because a better offer might appear tomorrow.
My father used to call this “hedging your bet.” It means that you avoid committing yourself to one specific thing, in order to leave a means of retreat available for yourself. This idiom arose in financial transactions in the early 17th century. It referred to the practice of securing several smaller loans with a variety of lenders instead of taking out one large loan with a single lender. By doing this, if you couldn’t pay your debt one month, it was easier to pay several lenders a small sum of money to keep them happy, instead of having to pay one lender a larger sum of money to keep that lender happy.
In the 21st century, “hedging your bet” has come to be known as “waiting until you have a better offer.” Although this might make good sense in financial transactions, it’s not a trait to be envied when it comes to leading a team. Most team members are reluctant to follow a leader who has a “wait and see” reputation. Instead, they prefer to follow someone who is known for being decisive. So, the next time someone asks you for a commitment, say, “Yes” or say, “No.” You’ll soon get the reputation for being a decisive leader. Remember, most people like following a leader who knows where they are going, not only down the road, but also, TODAY.