As business leaders, we are regularly faced with decisions. The big ones can grind us to a halt. Little ones can get blown out of proportion. Putting off a decision can sometimes be strategic but indecision is rarely good business.
I like to dig deep into the leader and the leadership team’s beliefs and behaviours. Technical fixes have their place but I have yet to see a decision checklist solve a workplace accountability problem, for example.
Nonetheless, great frameworks and provocative questions always help. Here I offer you the best path to sound decision making. And I send a big thanks to Chip and Dan Heath whose book Decisive is a slam dunk. Try at least some of these steps next time you have a big work or life decision:
- Think Broadly: What are your options? If all these options dissapeared, what else would you come up with? What else could you do with the same time/money? What would a combo of two options look like? What would be a perfect ten? Who else solved this problem and what did they do? To reduce risk, what’s the best option? To embrace risk, what’s the best option?
- A Dose of Reality: Take a few options from step 1 and test them. Why might X be the worst option? How could it fail? What has to be true for it to work? Now, how can you put a toe in the water before fully committing (e.g., sell a few units, try the new approach for a week etc.). Pay close attention to what happens.
- Time to Step Back: How will you feel about your choice 10 min from now? 10 months? 10 years? What would you advise your mentee to do? What would the leader you most respect do? Are you focussed on the right issue or is there something else?
- You Might be Wrong or Wildly Right. Prepare Yourself: It’s a year from now. You made a terrible decision. What happened? Why did it fail? OR You made a great choice. What does success look like? How did you pull it off?
- Time to Commit: Heck, you’ve never been so diligent about a decision before. It’s time to commit 100%. What’s the vision? Who will execute? What’s the plan? What’s the timeline? How will you hold yourself and others accountable? What are the consequences for not following thru?
- A Tripwire: Book future check in dates in your calendar right now. Jump into planning and implementation wholeheartedly knowing that you’ll be evaluating your decision at a later date. When that date arrives: What will be the signs that things are unfolding well? Poorly? What permissions can you set now to give you an out in the future if things are not going well?
Three cheers for sound decisions!
Now, how are you going to see your decision through? How will you stay the course if the road gets bumpy? How will you hold your team accountable to implementation? If you get skittish later, how will you know if you should pull the plug or is it just your irrational fear looming large?
I predict you’ll struggle with sound decision making if you tend to make “being liked” more important that holding people accountable. You will struggle if you tend to avoid failure at all costs. And you will struggle in the face of the unknown if you tend to need to appear smart or in control at all times.
These are all very human reactions to big decisions. But you’re a leader. That means you are held to a higher standard.
Sound decisions AND results can be your legacy. But you have to be willing to do the work.