I often watch young leaders struggle with making decisions. They’re usually concerned about coming across as the bad guy or making employees unhappy. They’re concerned about their image (they want everyone to like them) more than they are about the decision itself.
While trying to make everyone happy is an admirable goal, that’s not what you were hired to do. In reality, you are going to be faced with a decision that will not have a positive outcome for all involved. Whether it’s about employee issues such as performance or pay, or about escalated customer requests that front line employees are unable to resolve, decisions are often perceived as taking sides.
Your ability to think through challenges will undoubtedly seep over into your personal and family life, too. Is there a secret to being a good decision maker? Not necessarily, but there are ways that you can learn to make the best decisions with the options you have.
Making better decisions tip #1: Pros and Cons
Yes, I know this sounds like Mom and Dad advice, but it works. When you’re faced with choices, writing the pros and cons to each of your options can make the proper path literally easier to see. Even though you may picture a certain outcome in your mind, putting both sides down on paper can help you visualize multiple outcomes. You may find that writing pros lead to more pros, or writing cons leads to more cons. Should you choose the option with the highest number of pros? Or fewest number of cons? There’s more to consider. Read on.
Making better decisions tip #2: Impact
Consider the impact of your decisions. This is a skill that becomes better developed over time. That’s because impacts are not always immediately obvious or quantifiable. For example, the impact of raising fees may have a positive impact on your bottom line. However, if it erodes customer loyalty or you’re not staffed to manage customer complaints about the new fees, your decision could have larger, farther-reaching effects. While not all decisions can be measured in dollars and cents, they can be measured in some way. Loyalty and teamwork are more difficult to measure – but good leaders can tell when these assets are headed in the wrong direction.
Making better decisions tip #3: People
Does your decision affect a small number of people? A single department? Or everyone in the company? Does your choice have support on the ground? If not, you’ll risk losing morale. Negative vibes can spread like wildfire in the form of gossip, rumors, and “I heard…” statements. When you’re dealing with your employees’ livelihoods this is no time to test the waters or hope your decision will gain traction. (Hope is not a strategy!) If you’re unsure of how your decision may be received, talk to others and seek to understand different viewpoints.
Making better decisions tip #4: Tie-in with the greater goal
Good decisions can’t be made in a silo. As a leader it’s your job to communicate the whys behind your decisions. Tying in business objectives, strategic goals or growth targets will help your team understand that decisions are not black or white. Help your team see things from your seat and you’ll be developing future leaders at the same time.
Making better decisions tip #5: Align with Your Mission
Leaders set the tone for internal and external expectations, conduct, and culture. Their decisions should reflect the organization’s mission more than a perceived “vote” for or against something. Decisions often mean change, and change is difficult for some people to accept. When decisions are aligned with missions they are more easily accepted, and embraced.
For the Current Leaders
Young professionals who excel in their jobs are often promoted because of their competence rather than their leadership potential. Don’t assume that your top performers are ready for management responsibilities. Those who have the most technical skills don’t always make the best leaders.
If you are considering promoting a star employee that has expressed interest in taking on more responsibility, have a talk with them about decision making. Meet with them regularly to discuss their comfort level with decision making, review and discuss actual decisions they’ve made, and role play to sharpen their decision making skills.
Decision making is more art than science. Yes, there is a bottom line impact, but perception, morale and teamwork are all impacted if a decision is implemented poorly.
Were you ever faced with a decision you felt unprepared to make? Tell us about it in the comments.