What do you think? Yes, no, maybe – Making decisions
A real decision is measured by the fact that you’ve taken a new action. If there’s no action, you haven’t truly decided. Tony Robbins
How many Managers do you know who make decisions?
For successful Leadership, decision-making skills are essential. Nothing is more infuriating to a team member than a Manager who cannot make a decision. Managers and Leaders without the ability to make a decision will make the business stagnate and no actions will happen because the team don’t know what is required of them.
So what do you need to focus on?
Let’s start with:
• What are the Business’s priorities?
• Then setting clear goals
In my career I have found it entertaining at times, watching Managers run around like headless chickens because they couldn’t prioritise what was needed for the business and what next steps were needed. I can gladly say, it wasn’t too often that happened. It took me a while, to learn that the business couldn’t take forward all the decisions that were needed in one go, and I frequently had my Manager saying “bite-size chunks”. But time goes on and enlightenment happens and I realised if too many decisions were made, without assessing priorities, the business wouldn’t achieve anything and it put undue pressure on the staff.
As a Manager, you need to learn to co-ordinate and manage information with skill. And you do need to understand where decisions are inter-related. So it’s essential to understand what is affected, who is involved as your key stakeholders and what your priorities are for the business.
Often when making decisions, Managers miss a key urgency around whether this will affect the business’s reputation. A hypothetical example of this is, customers are kept waiting for a response to their phone enquiries for a long time and potentially if it gets out into the press it could create reputational damage. However, the Lead puts off exploring what the issues are for the long wait and then making a decision and before you know it, it’s splashed across all the papers about the poor customer service. And what does the Lead do but go and throw resource to man the enquiries coming in. Is that necessarily the right answer? Probably not! If the problem had been examined properly, then they may have found it was actually upskilling the people doing the work to feel confident enough to point customers in the direction of the right guidance, and in turn that would have educated the customer for the future. Anyway, the point is that because the decision wasn’t made at the right time it wasn’t properly researched because of the panic response!
So decisions need to be made on the most pressing and vital items first and Managers need to learn to prioritise. Sometimes the vital decisions get left because they are mundane and uninteresting but often these are the areas that keep the business going.
When prioritising decisions to be made then divide the issues into urgent and important. You will find some don’t fit into either and others fit into both. You can find sometimes a few minor urgent decisions actually further down the road lead into a bigger decision. So it’s understanding the impact that’s crucial.
• One way of identifying the priorities is to list the issues which need a decision.
• Consider whether the list items are sub-tasks of a bigger issue
• Display on the list what the main issues are
• Then group any sub-tasks under the main task – (you almost have the start of a project plan then)
• If any sub-tasks contribute to more than one main task – highlight by putting an asterisk against them.
• Then arrange to assess the list through a team meeting with the relevant people
Setting Clear Goals
Successful decision making also relies on setting clear goals and outcomes. Often I’ve seen too vague goals and outcomes identified. For example – customer service needs to improve but there are no clear goals within that statement. Maybe instead it could have been answering the phone within 5 minutes to the customer in the queue and reduce customers calling in by 20% because guidance and instructions on the website are clear.
By setting clear goals everyone is working to achieve the same outcome and the result wanted is clearly understood. I have seen people not clear on what needs to be achieved when a decision has been made. For example, the business is merging but what is the actual outcome expected. Organisational structure streamlined, resources reduced, customer service functions improved by what?
The way the goal is expressed dictates how it will be discussed. So for example:
• The business wants to enhance its environmental standing in the community.
• To reduce telephone call waiting times to 2 minutes from currently 8 minutes
The first goal is very general and needs discussion to then come up with specifics to reach the outcome. As a result, it creates a conversation that explores options and invites real input. Through the discussion, it then becomes clear on specifics needed.
The second goal is measurable and as a result, any option that doesn’t hit this can easily be dismissed. Specifics are only good if they add value and are needed.
Remember the more important the decision the more time is needed to discuss it.
Next time you make a decision, consider how you are making that decision and whether you could do it differently.
Good luck and let me know examples where decision making has gone well or where you learnt some lessons.