Friday, July 28, 2023

5 Tactics To Help You Make Good Decisions In Business

making-better-business-decisionsEvery business needs both managers and leaders. My experience confirms that managers are needed to achieve organizational goals through implementing processes, such as budgeting, and staffing, while leaders are more focused on making decisions on new challenges and capitalizing on growth opportunities. Most team members aspire to career growth as managers, then leaders.

Unfortunately, the jump to leadership is more than time in the business and hard work. Most experienced business consultants and executives, like myself, look for a fundamental mind shift change from managing work to making strategic decisions and inspiring others to follow. The skills and tactics required to be an effective leader are not intuitive and are growing in complexity.

I have found that the ability to make effective decisions is a key starting point, and a tough one to learn. I always struggle with coaching along these lines, so I was pleased to see some excellent guidance on tactics in making decisions in a new book, “The Leap To Leader,” by Adam Bryant. Adam brings real insights from his interviews with hundreds of senior leaders over two decades.

I offer here a synopsis of his five key tactics in making any business decision, with my own insights added, that I would recommend to every business professional aspiring to make the jump to leadership:

  1. First get all the input you can from your team. This requires creating a culture where debate is welcomed and encouraged, and team members don’t censor themselves out of fear. Eliminate any potential penalty for disagreement and speaking up. Always push to understand the context behind someone’s opinion and be vulnerable when asking why.

    In addition, I find that most big decisions require research. While you may schedule an hour for your team to talk about the relative pros and cons of every option, you'll get much richer input if you have them each spend that hour writing up their feedback

  2. Be brutally honest about the challenges you all face. Without a shared context, people will all create their own narratives for where they think the company is doing well and where it is struggling. It is impossible to drive disruptive levels of change if people don’t agree on the need for change in the first place. People have to know what is real.

    You must realize that most team members are so self-centered that they will initially think only of impacts on their current and future roles. I recommend that you use every vehicle at your disposal, including email and public statistics, to clarify the worst case.

  3. Avoid being misled by flawed decision frameworks. Push people and yourself to understand the underlying assumptions around the problem you and they are solving. Make sure everyone has thought through all the possible consequences of a given decision, including financial and political. Find any way you can to shift the framework.

    Another good trick to avoid being led down the wrong path is to look at the framework from every angle, including what is the potential impact if you make a bad decision or no decision. In my experience, making no decision most often leads to the worst outcome.

  4. Listen to all the key people, then drive the decision. People expect leaders to step up and take charge of driving a decision to closure, especially during crises. People expect options to get to the goal and directional guidance, not micromanagement, in moving forward. Being prescriptive can help people get to the right outcome faster.

    In all cases, eliminate the emotional element in a business decision. Evidence indicates that emotional intelligence is a key factor in driving effective decisions. It’s also the key to a more successful career and living a happier, more fulfilling, and more productive life.

  5. Give people the context for every decision you make. People are more willing to act on a decision once they have the rationale and understand how it fits into the bigger picture. Be clear about overall vision and strategy, and make sure you connect them to what people are doing daily. Declare that you alone are accountable for the outcome.

As the leader, you set the bar for performance and decision making for your team. Don’t demotivate people by setting expectations too high, or become non-competitive by accepting complacency. There is no such thing as a healthy culture in an underperforming team. Making timely and effective decisions, and then executing quickly, is the key to success in business.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on Inc.com on 07/11/2023 ***

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