A leader who cannot make important decisions is not doing the things they say they will do, and is not doing the things they know they should do. Urgent issues begin to take priority over important ones, but as we all know, urgent issues are often unimportant.
There seem to be two fundamental reasons why a leader avoids making decisions. First of all, they are not certain what the decision is that they need to make so don’t know how to proceed.
Second, even if the issue has been identified and a number of options determined, leaders often procrastinate – they believe the decision will be a difficult one and avoid taking action, sometimes claiming they need more information. They fall into the “certainty over clarity” temptation that Patrick Lencioni outlines in his book The Five Temptations of a CEO.
I have been a Chair for The Executive Connection (TEC) for 13 years and have helped to guide many CEOs and managers to think through their business (and sometimes personal) issues, make decisions and execute them.
TEC groups are made up of around 16 business leaders who are not linked to each other in any way as customers, competitors or suppliers. This means they are able to be completely open about the issues they are facing, and provide impartial reasoning to one another.
At every meeting, members bring their issues to the group. In a fairly structured process, the issue is clarified and then members offer their suggestions and comments. This often widens the number of options and usually leads to a solution for the member with the issue.
At the end of the discussion the member is asked what they have heard and what they plan to do about it. When the group meets in a month’s time the member is expected to have taken the action they promised and are held accountable to themselves and to the group. This is the critical associated attribute in decision making – accountability.
Whilst this key process is used in TEC meetings, the principles can be applied in any workplace environment. In brief the steps are:
- State the issue clearly.
- Why is it significant?
- My ideal outcome is?
- Relevant background information.
- My options are.
- Direction I am heading.
- Input I would like.
Using this process in the workplace empowers people, requires them to come with possible solutions, and leads to a greater level of accountability for the decision you should let them make.
Over the years helping business leaders make the decisions they need to make, I have seen four areas that often cause the most difficulty or don’t get the attention needed:
- Being able to give and receive constructive feedback when needed and/or regularly.
- Facing up to removing people who everyone knows are not performing and/or the terrorist who is always undermining the efforts of the leader or the organisation.
- Delegating and empowering people; giving them the responsibility, authority, and accountability and holding them to it.
- Keeping strategy at the forefront and actually having a real strategy, not just a ‘list of things to do’.
Leaders are accountable for the above and in doing so become more confident, developing a feeling of control over their business and their destiny. Most importantly they become proficient in making the right decisions at the right time.
Keep an eye out for my other blogs. They will provide insights in to the important aspects of the leader’s role listed above.