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Wise decisions require a leap of faith

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

If you're going to manage effectively, you better get used to making tough decisions with limited information, little time to reflect and unappealing options. The stakes are often high and the stress can eat away at you.

That's the bad news.

On the bright side, your smart moves can pay off.

Consider the case of Mike Eskew, who served as CEO of United Parcel Service from 2002 to 2007 after joining the company in 1972 as an industrial engineering manager. During his 35 years at UPS, he found that the best employees embraced change and made bold but well-reasoned decisions.

When asked to identify the No. 1 success trait of a manager, he tells us, "You have to deal well with ambiguity."

He cites an example from 1985 when, as a 35-year-old midlevel executive, he helped expand the company's use of airlines to facilitate package delivery. He was shopping for as many as four new airplanes at $25 million apiece.

"The problem was, I had to buy six at once or none at all," he recalled. "So I took all six. It was a leap into the unknown."

Approving such a huge expenditure took its toll on Eskew. At first, he feared he had "destroyed the company." He didn't eat or sleep normally, and his wife grew concerned for his well-being.

It took years before his decision proved a success. Meanwhile, he confronted another massive bet.

To expand the company's giant sorting facility in Louisville, Ky., Eskew weighed whether to invest in technology or upgrade with lower cost, conventional equipment.

"It was a $1 billion decision," he says. "We could have this cutting-edge facility that had minimal human intervention or a labor-intensive operation that we were more familiar with."

He chose to put $1 billion into building a high-tech hub. Again, his big bet paid off in the years ahead.

You'll rarely have all the data you want when you face a judgment call. Like Eskew, examine the big picture and confirm your decision opens doors for future growth.

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