“Laura,” a senior exec working to build leadership throughout her team, looked up from her salad and confided.
“Karin, the truth is I have so many things going on in any given day, I may not remember the exact decision I made if it was a trivial matter, and I may not even remember exactly what I said about something important. But what I DO KNOW is what I WOULD HAVE SAID in any given circumstance. My values guide my decision-making, so the answer would always be the same.
If someone tries to twist my words, I just think “Is that something I could have possibly said?” If the answer is no, I move on. At the end of the day, if you are leading consistently, you really don’t have to remember that much.”
5 Secrets to Effective Decision Making
Winning Well managers know that like everything else that matters, decision-making is always an AND game of Confidence AND Humility, Results AND relationships. Winning Well leaders know that making the right decisions is clearly only the beginning, it’s also about building decision making competency throughout your team.
1. Be Crystal Clear on Your Values.
Taking some time to really consider your values and operating principles will save a lot of time-consuming waffling and hand wringing down the line. Write down your leadership credo, that way when the decisions get tough, you’ve got the scaffolding already in place.
2. Insist that people on your team make decisions they should make.
You use energy to make decisions. The more decisions you make in a day, the more difficult it becomes to make the next one. Stop making decisions you don’t need to make, and invest in helping your team build their decision making muscles. Ask great strategic questions. Be sure your team understands your values and any big rules. Most importantly, if you empower them to make the decision, don’t freak out when they make the wrong one. Take a deep breath and then work to understand the thought process, so the next decision they make will be less wacky.
3. Make low-risk decisions quickly.
If the consequences are minimal, make decisions quickly and move on. Save your 3 am worry for decisions that matter.
4. Make decisions once
This is an old and essential productivity tool. Look at an email once, then either delete it, act on it, schedule it for future action, put it in a file related to its project, or put it in a “maybe read later.”
5. Include the right players.
Before making any major decision ask yourself, “Who really needs to be involved in this and why?” Stakeholder, yes, but resist the urge to over-include.
Of course, you can follow these guidelines and still screw it up. Sometimes I do too. When that happens, don’t obsess, but do take a moment to reflect and take that learning with you for the next time.