Great Leaders Make Fewer Decisions!
Senior leaders, be it a CEO, Director, VP of Sales, you name the position and you’ll hear different stories on what they really do when it comes to making decisions. Most people in the organization and even outside of it believe the CEO makes all the major decisions in the company. Now to be truthful, in some companies that is absolutely true! But watch those companies, see how well they are running every day. See what the retention rate of employees is, see how productive they are over time.
Most are failing in some way or another because of this method of leadership. Today, most of the better leaders make fewer decisions instead of more. Most of the better one’s are focused on building a culture of accountability and empowerment throughout the organization than they are on building their own resume. If you are a new supervisor, new manager or leader, focus on the daily empowerment of your subordinate leaders and line employees instead. Let them run the organization, that’s why you hired them!
Does your organization have a set of Core Values? Mission Statement? How about a Vision Statement? Some do, many do not and most that do may have well been written on a cocktail napkin, because nobody reads it, and nobody lives it. Begin by setting the stage of what’s important to long term success of the organization, then communicate that to the employees. Revisit those goals, mission and vision statement every year in some manner or another so your employees know they mean something, they are part of the culture.
Make sure your team knows who owns the decision-making process. What division is responsible for what action, what department will lead the effort on certain projects and so on. If it is part of the day-to-day way of life, then nobody will be waiting for decisions from up high, that should not ever have to come. Empower your managers to make a decision and run with it!
I have a favorite thing to say when it may appear I’m being asked as to “what do you think?” from a manager. I respond with “It’s Your Ship” as a reference from a great book by Commander Mike Abrashoff titled “It’s Your Ship” of course. Required reading in my organization for my leaders, new and old. It’s a powerful example of empowering leadership to turn a poor performing organization into the best in the Navy! It’s Your Ship, make the decision. Once I remind them of this, they realize I’ve already empowered them to make that decision.
Learn And Move On
Most leadership decisions are based on information you have at the moment, good or bad. Data, financial figures, sales numbers, whatever it is, make the best decision on what you know today. Sometimes you will make good decisions and other times you will not. All allow for learning in one way or another. Where some new supervisors or leaders fail is to panic and react negatively when poor decision points are made. Remember, your new leaders know when they have made a poor decision more often than not. You may have to discuss the options with them, however demeaning or demoralizing them because of the decision is normally not a productive learning platform.
Encourage your team to have an open mind and be ready to change course if needed. Every decision will have impact on the organization below or above them in some fashion. Every decision normally will have some impact laterally across the organization too. Like a performance issue with an employee or team will not only impact that branch or division but will have impact on your Human Resources team as well.
Use The Data You Have
The most effective decision-makers choose a path based on the information available, then continue to collect and consider new data. Often, the simple act of making a choice provides experiential insights that are valuable regardless of the outcome.
Jeff Bezos’ talks about “reversible and irreversible decision points” that can help you manage how much information or data you really need. There are times that high-cost, no going back decisions require you to have a lot of data available to maximize the probably of being right. The acquisition of another company, for example; it is nearly impossible to reverse. The data mining must be exhaustive to ensure the highest level of making the “right” decision. Anything short of that, don’t be the micro-managing data driver for day-to-day decisions. Learn And Move on!
Direct Traffic Accordingly
Good leaders; good decision making requires us to get specific on a few key points that help determine the best outcome. Often times new leaders, even mature ones get distracted easily and drift out of their lane, taking one side-road after another looking for the “right” information.
It’s ok to help your team identify when they get off track, get stuck or get mired in the muck. Paralysis of analysis is an epidemic in most organizations. When you see that, know that your leader may be an individual having a specific problem, but he/she may also be part of a systemic issue in your organization. Be careful, an individual issue is one thing, if it’s systemic across your leaders, you have work to do. Show them the right traffic lane to go down.
Every organization will have deadlines of some kind to meet. Sales requirements, process quotas, widget production minimums, data deadlines everyone will have a deadline to meet at some time. The less time you have, the more likely you are to have that one person that always seems to come in right under the wire and saves the day. That however undermines the goal of empowerment. Plan ahead, work backwards from your deadline and build in benchmarks along the way. Add some extra time to the process, just to deal with those inevitable gremlins that find their way in. Your team is empowered to do this, show them why it’s important to have this extra time.
After Action Must Be Positive
Once your organization has made some difficult decisions, overcome some significant obstacles, don’t just review it, dig into it. See what they learned, see how it weaves into the organization’s mission/value statement (remember your building a culture here). Successes should be a goal of the bigger picture. Talk about the decision points along the way, how they were made, who made them and why. Keep it positive, even if there were some stumbling blocks along the way, always keep it positive. This encourages open communication, more empowered decisions next time and growth.