How to Make Tough Business Decisions with Ease

Ken Kilday

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Leaders decide. In fact, my observation and experience is that making a decision of some kind is often better than making no decision at all. Even worse than not making a decision is immediately second guessing one to the point of paralyzing progress, thereby introducing chaos along with indecision.

There is a simple, discrete method of making tough business decisions in a timely manner using time in the most effective and efficient way possible. 

“I don’t have time for this.” – nearly every leader, business owner, and executive at one time or another. Time is a fixed resource, therefore using it the most effective way possible benefits all involved. And methodically calling out the issues, courageously seeking the root, and making a decision to solve it will allow you to move on.

Identify the Issue and What Decision Needs to be Made

This may seem like an obvious place to start, however failing to identify the root cause is a key source of poor decision making that leads to the same “issue” bubbling up again and again. An example of treating a symptom versus solving a cause: if my nose is running and I take an allergy pill, have I solved the problem? No. The problem is the plant on my desk that I am allergic to and the runny nose is a symptom of the problem. If I move the plant to another room my nose will stop running – permanently. 

Having the courage to seek the root of a problem, even pushing through the frustration expressed by team members by interrogating reality may seem to take more time. What truly wastes time is jumping to conclusions (like taking the allergy pill above) addressing the symptom, which invariably returns. Intentionally working to accurately identify makes the most of your time.

Research Relevant Information

Having all necessary information without waiting for additional information that may never come, is key to making timely decisions. General Colin Powell was once asked in an interview if he made ‘fast decisions.’ His reply (paraphrased) was, I make the best decision I can, with the available information, and then we move forward. The emphasis added here is the key point to great decision making. Collect all the facts at hand that impact the decision.

Also take note of questions you may have for which you do not have answers. As you review them, be tough with yourself asking, do I really need these answers to make a decision. If you answered yes, see if the data is available. If not, keep moving.

Identify Options

Now you have a root cause identified and all available facts, therefore you can begin brainstorming options to solve the problem. At this stage, there are no ‘bad ideas’ there are only ideas.

To get the most out of yourself and your team, set a timer for a fixed amount of time in order to accomplish two outcomes: 1) limit those that would go on and on at this type of situation and 2) keep people brainstorming that may give up after a couple of ideas (that they may also be married to). 

When the timer starts, everyone grabs a pad of post-it notes and a sharpie and starts writing, pinning the notes to a board without discussion, judgement, or hesitation. 

When the timer sounds, pens down. Now everyone steps away for a short mind-break. Take a walk, get a cup of coffee, check emails – whatever gets your mind off the ‘problem’ you were just working. After the short break, regroup in front of the sea of post-its.

Evaluate the Information

Come back to the drawing board and stand in front of the myriad of options.

As patterns emerge, organize the post-it notes into natural categories. What are natural categories? As you step back, you will notice that the ideas will thematically align into groups; for instance, that might mean software options, people options, hiring options, etc. 

After organizing your options, it’s time to go through a round of keep, combine, or kill with your team (or yourself). On round one, if anyone wants to keep an idea, it stays. If there are options that are effectively the same or similar, combine them. If an idea is not supported by anyone (i.e., perhaps a wild brainstorm) then kill it (pull it down or cross it off).

Round two: review again for kill or keep. 

Round three: vote on your top three options.

Make, Implement and Review Your Decision

You are staring at your three best ideas. If you are a leadership team and there is a clear consensus, that is your choice. If there’s a tie, the leader makes the choice.

Do not be lulled into thinking that your organization will run effectively by ‘voting’; either you all agree or the leader chooses. That will make it easier to implement the decision.

Once made, assign implementation to the person accountable for such a decision. For example, if it’s a software solution, then your IT director likely owns that implementation.

Further, define how ‘success’ will be measured and when you will review results. Until that time, avoid the temptation to micromanage implementation. Set the standard and review as agreed in order to institute confidence in the decision making process that everyone relies upon.

Whether using this process as a team or individual, you will likely find that the steps above will become second nature, using time and intellectual resources optimally.

After all, you do not have time to make a decision twice.

Conclusion

“In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing: – Theodore Roosevelt

Some of the primary benefits of business and executive coaching include getting really clear on your personality and leadership strengths and blindspots. You have to understand who you are and how you interact with others first.

From there you can work on maximizing your strength to be the best leader possible for your team and your clients. You don’t have to change everything about yourself to be an effective leader, in fact there is no one-size-fits-all correct personality and leadership style.

At Leader’s Cut our executive coaching services are tailored to the unique needs of each client and each business. Contact us today to schedule a 15 minute meet and greet to find out how Leader’s Cut executive coaching can help you and your business!

 

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