The Cincinnati Zoo Story Tough Unpopular Choices

harmabe_media_useThe Cincinnati Zoo story clearly demonstrates tough, unpopular choices are inevitable; and, it’s not just confined to freak accidents or public safety. One important, inescapable lesson, is decisions have real consequences, major and minor. This unfortunate incident serves as a situational microcosm and no one is happy about the overall outcome, including the four-year old boy’s mother, Michelle Gregg.

In an instant, a decision had to be made. Cincinnati Zoo officials explained the choice resulted from risk calculation: if shot with a tranquilizer, Harambe the gorilla would most likely become enraged, something too dangerous to chance. Controversy erupted on social media, with sides being drawn overnight. In the course of a single day, this tragedy turned into a still unresolved, heated debate.

The Cincinnati Zoo Story: Tough, Unpopular Choices

The same dynamic happens to businesses on a regular basis. Take your pick, horrible customer service being recorded and played back on scores of news sites and channels; a manufacturing defect requiring public recall; or, the closure of several local brick and mortar retail locations.

Launching a company is tough, but it gets even tougher when you have to do the odious things–announcing layoffs, reducing benefits, missing your kid’s school play–that haunt every founder. New companies force you to decide between your success and your reputation, friendships, and family. —

The fact of the matter is, change happens in business and successfully dealing with change can require tough, unpopular choices. These instances will arise, there’s simply no avoiding such situations and what’s worse, there’s no way to effectively predict the results, either short-term or long-term. While it’s possible to anticipate, there is no guaranteed outcome. It’s one of the reasons some individuals never act on their ideas and forgo entrepreneurial opportunities.

How to Deal with Tough, Unpopular Choices in Business

Risk is part of doing business and most entrepreneurs do what they can to mitigate it. The problem is, there is no escaping reality and history does repeat itself, repeatedly. We see it in so many instances, it should not be difficult to accept. However, there’s still shock when tough, unpopular choices in business must be made. The trick is to have a viable, actionable strategy to get you through it all. Here are some helpful suggestions for how to deal with tough, unpopular choices in business:

  • Be realistic. The very first step is to approach the choices realistically. While it’s impossible to know what will happen in-the-moment or soon afterward, it is imperative you think about it realistically. Consider several choices but try not to favor one over the others. If possible, don’t rush it and step outside, away from the workplace, so you aren’t interrupted.
  • Ask for help. You’ve already been relying on key team members for exceptional work. Ask these individuals for help, if you are able to do so; and, be willing to listen without jumping to conclusions. This not only provides you with more thoughts but also, demonstrates your trust in these individuals.
  • Know what’s invaluable. You might experience an urge to purge and that might well be the ultimate answer. But don’t go there right away, think about what is truly invaluable to your organization and make a list of priorities. Go over the list several times, with key staff, and make changes, if necessary.
  • Understand the consequences. Of course, there will be consequences and these depend on your decision-making process. Play through different scenarios and don’t forget to include some unlikely outcomes because you don’t know yet what will happen and this is a way to avoid total surprise.
  • Have a contingency plan ready-to-go. In actuality, there are few changes which are irreversible. Create a contingency plan that can be enacted quickly, if possible. If you’ve already thought seriously about possible scenarios, this should not be difficult to strategize and implement.

How have you dealt with tough, unpopular choices in the past? Are you facing hard decisions now? What are your suggestions for how to cope with such situations? Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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