Interesting insight from Speaker, Author and Fellow Vistage Chair Greg Bustin.
Leaders are in the decision-making business. Some of your decisions are bigger than others, and so to be considered successful on your terms as well as the terms of others means you must make more good decisions than bad decisions when the stakes are highest.
What’s your decision-making process? There are 10 questions leaders must answer—either intentionally or intuitively, either alone or collaboratively—when making big decisions.
At the heart of sound decision-making is being crystal clear about what you stand for. Because no matter how much more complex the world seems to become and no matter how much more quickly we race to outrun others, great leaders operate from a set of principles they use daily as filters for making decisions. Your mettle as a leader is not truly tested until your principles have the potential to cost you something. Money. Power. Position. Lives. Reputation. Your beliefs form the bedrock of your character. And your character drives your decision-making.
You also must know very clearly what you want. It’s hard to be committed—especially to an outcome that may stretch your abilities as well as those of your colleagues—if you’re not clear about what you want. And what you don’t want. Goal clarity helps you minimize distractions and gives you confidence to make the necessary—and sometimes difficult—decisions that will allow you and your team to remain focused on your desired outcomes and remember why those outcomes matter. Clarity equips you to overcome obstacles, endure sacrifice and withstand setbacks as you press on toward realizing your dream.
And so the next time you’re facing a big decision, ask and answer these 10 questions:
1. What are the facts?
2. What is our objective?
3. What—precisely—is the problem or set of problems we must solve to achieve our objective?
4. Who should be involved in helping reach a decision?
5. What are all of the possible solutions?
6. Are the possible solutions aligned with my (our) core values? Eliminate those possible solutions that are not.
7. What are the consequences of each of the remaining solutions?
8. What’s the best possible solution?
9. How must we communicate this solution to our stakeholders?
10. Who will do what by when?
As you think about your personal leadership style and how you’ll apply these decision-making guidelines, recall the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “There are many ways of moving forward but only one way of standing still.” So when you postpone a tough decision—when, in effect, you fail to decide—you are actually making a decision to do nothing.
It’s logical when facing a momentous decision to want to gather as many facts as possible, play out as many scenarios as you can devise, test theories, engage in conversations with confidantes and trusted advisors, and spend time alone soul-searching. You owe it to yourself and those you’re leading to be thoughtful about big decisions. But avoid the temptation to postpone a big decision simply because you don’t want to decide. Leadership requires you to make the tough decision and get your team moving.
The word “decide” is derived from Latin decidere, meaning literally “to cut off,” from de- “off” (de-) + caedere “to cut” (-cide). “Decide” shares the same partial origin as the words “homicide,” “pesticide” and “suicide,” which essentially means that to decide is to “cut off” or “kill off” other choices or options in order to choose a course of action. Sometimes you must choose between several bad options. But choose you must.
Failure to act saps time, money and energy. Failure to act can hurt your customers and help your competition. Failure to act confuses and discourages your colleagues. Your colleagues are looking for a commonsense approach where trust, discipline and good old fashioned hard work gets things done. Confident decision-making accompanied by decisive action is a one-two punch that’s important to any leader whose team is eager to contribute to success.
Once you decide, move forward. “Don’t make the same decision twice,” cautions Bill Gates. “Spend time and thought to make a solid decision the first time so that you don’t revisit the issue unnecessarily. If you’re too willing to reopen issues, it interferes not only with your execution but also with your motivation to make a decision in the first place. After all, why bother deciding an issue if it isn’t really decided?”
What big decisions are on your horizon? What options must you “kill off” in order to make your next big decision?