Let me tell you one of the most important truths I know about leadership. Here it is: The way you make decisions radiates, crafting much of the leadership culture around you.
Let me explain.
Leaders make decisions. That’s part of the job. It is important they make good decisions and then execute what they’ve decided well. Yet, the way some leaders make decisions actually works against them. Their problem isn’t so much that they make bad decisions, but that the way they make decisions is so tortured that it deflates the hopes and motivation of those around them.
I remember speaking to a middle level manager in a firm. He had a great idea. I had been talking to him about it for a while and I was convinced he had an innovation that would make a huge difference. I urged him to propose it to his boss.
He said he wouldn’t. Then he explained. His boss was terrified of decisions and the idea would never become reality. Instead, the boss would schedule meeting after meeting and ask this middle level manager to present the idea dozens of times. It would be much discussed and debated. Hundreds of people would be consulted. The process would drag out for months. Resentments would set in. People would start making changes to the idea. In time, something far removed from his idea would be approved. He would get the credit/blame for it. The whole process would be torturous and would actually hurt the firm.
Then he said this: “Everyone in our firm feels this way. No one will ever propose anything new. They don’t want to be punished by the way our boss makes decisions.”
Think about what he said: the decision making process in this firm was considered punishment by the very people who could make the firm more successful.
Still, I’ve seen it many times. So have you.
Why does it happen this way? It is because the leader secretly fears making decisions. He hides, though, behind a great stir of meetings and discussions and “let’s get more information” and “why don’t we pull in more people for advice.” So, bad decisions are made. Some important decisions are never made.
Now let me be clear. Meetings have their place. So does research and getting advice. Yet none of it can replace the power of a courageous leader making informed, timely, wise decisions.
Here is a checklist for you:
First, do you fear making decisions? This nearly always has to do with a fundamental insecurity about your role or the echoes of bad decisions from the past. If you answer yes to this, get help. Leadership consultants, experienced executives, and friends who are good decision-makers can all coach you. Don’t hide. Fix this in your soul.
Second, keep this in mind: A camel is a horse designed by a committee. You don’t want group decision making. You may want brief, concise, informed input from a group, but you want to make the decisions yourself or with your immediate executive team. Don’t let committees design. Don’t let committees decide. Let them advise. Then make your decision.
Finally, never forget that decisions are rarely final or fatal. Most matters, once decided, can be modified while in motion. Make the best decision you can. Watch closely. Always change a losing game plan. Never change a winning game plan. Fine tune as needed. Don’t try to be perfect.