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Mastering the Art of Decision-making: Unveiling Six Strategies for Effective Leadership

“Definiteness of decision always requires courage, sometimes very great courage.” — from “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill. Hill studied over 25,000 people who had experienced failure and concluded that lack of decision-making was a top cause.

Leaders in small and medium-sized firms continually make decisions. From major strategic decisions like developing new products/services or acquiring another company to daily task-focused decisions like calling or when to contact a client/customer. The type of decision you make must fit the different scenarios you are in. Every situation is different, but there are six types of decision-making processes that will help you out in nearly any situation you can think of.

READ: Maximize Your Impact: The Power of Intentional Network Building

Consensus

With consensus, the decision is made only when everyone reaches 100% agreement. The benefit is that everyone fully buys into the decision (unless their agreement wasn’t made honestly). The downside is that it can be a painfully slow process, and even then, sometimes consensus isn’t reached. In fast, fluid teams, it’s often best to strive for consensus. But if not readily reached, consensus that defaults to the leader might be better.

Consensus that defaults to the leader

If you strive to reach a consensus but can’t get everyone on board, the team leader makes the decision. The Entrepreneurial Operating System® (EOS®), a leadership and management system specifically crafted for entrepreneurs, uses this decision-making process for all teams. The benefit is that everyone is heard. If consensus isn’t reached after ample discussion, the leader makes the call, and the team or organization moves forward. All team members must agree that when a decision is made, everyone is 100% in (regardless of their agreement, or disagreement during the discussion). It’s almost always better to make a decision than not — you can usually correct it if it doesn’t work.

Majority

This decision is made by majority vote. The process is good with tremendously large numbers of people, like electing public officials. In my experience, however, it isn’t effective for leadership teams or any teams in a company.

Individual with input

This is a highly effective process in which the decision-maker asks others for their input. The others understand they aren’t involved in making the decision — they’re just giving their opinion to help a colleague, or boss with an important decision they need to make. 

Individual without input

Some decisions don’t affect others, so one person makes the decision. This is both effective and efficient. For example, when you have to go to the restroom — you don’t ask, just go!

The Harry Truman decision-making process

The 33rd President of the United States made some of the most difficult decisions in U.S. history. When tackling big, individual decisions, try Harry Truman’s three-step process (they need to be done fully and in the following order):

Step 1. The logical decision

Gather the best information from subject matter experts. (Be careful: remember that garbage in [bad data, opinions, or misinformation] gives you garbage out [bad decisions]). Make a detailed pros-and-cons list and determine your logical decision.

Step 2. The emotional decision

Search your heart for your emotional decision. It’s usually a strong response.

Step 3. The intuitive decision

After realizing your emotional decision, stop thinking about your decision and allow your mind to work on the problem silently in the background. Your intuitive decision can’t be rushed, you must let it emerge. You may find your intuitive message in the pit of your stomach as Truman did, or it could be a quiet sense of knowing (that’s how I experience them). They are not strong like your emotional decision; they require you to pay attention to your body and have a quiet mind. Intuitive messages are experienced differently for everyone.

Truman decided to drop the atomic bomb which essentially ended World War II. He said that his decision in Step 2 of his process (the emotional decision) was to not drop the bomb; he hated the idea. However, his intuition was different, and he followed that decision. Regardless of the logical and/or emotional decisions, always go with your intuitive decision. It’s a deep, subconscious integration of what your whole mind thinks is best. It takes courage to make the tough decisions!

 

Head Shot CloseTC North, PhD is a Certified EOS Implementer®, EOS franchise owner. He is co-author of the best-selling book, “Fearless Leaders,” an international speaker and Techstars All-Star Mentor/Coach. He has coached 100s of entrepreneurs to become high-performers and in recent years he has helped two entrepreneurs go from years of frustration and flat revenues to become members of the Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies in the US.

How to make effective decisions for your business

Do you have a decision to make in order to move forward professionally in a positive direction? You’re not alone. In the midst of uncertain times we actually have the opportunity to make decisions that can result in a positive impact on business. To minimize the stress associated with decision making it’s important to create as much clarity around the decision at hand as possible.

Your skills are “what” has led you to where you are today professionally. Your behavior determines “how” well you will do now moving forward: Positive Skills + Positive Behavior = Positive Impact on Business (Sherpa Executive Coaching formula).

As with any successful business venture, it is essential to have an effective process. The same holds true when it comes to making good business decisions. Think about a specific business decision that perhaps you have been putting off because of uncertainty. It could be in the area of resolving a long-standing conflict that has resulted in a negative impact on business. Maybe you have a decision to make around innovation and the most effective way to go about it given your budget. Whatever your current decision is, write it down and be as specific as possible.

Next, walk through a proven process for effective decision making called: Decision Making Mountain. This process has 4 phases that are depicted in a mountain format. The first phase is basecamp and you climb up from there.

  • Need: Defining the Essentials: Gather the facts and research the different areas related to the decision at hand. When considering a professional decision, you will gather the facts around your available resources to make a sound decision along with resisting the urge to make a snap decision. Impulse control continues to be one of the number one-character trait mastered by the top leaders of our time. Self-control means to manage your actions, feelings and emotions. The best decisions are made when you are calm, centered and objective. Ask yourself: What decision needs to be made?
  • Assessment: Another Sherpa Executive Coaching process involves nailing down your “Why it Matters” (your main driver in life) as this will come into play when you do make decisions. During this step you assess the ramifications of making the decision or leaving things alone. You may want to bring in other insights and wisdom from people you know, admire and trust who have gone through similar decisions in their life to gain wisdom. Ask yourself: What do I need to know to make this decision? 
  • Change: How adaptable are you? Decisions walk hand in hand with change. Reflecting upon your ability to adapt will offer you the opportunity to identify and adjust accordingly. Try to anticipate the unexpected. Learn from undesirable outcomes (a definition of failure) and expand your successes. There is a big difference between an undesirable outcome that comes from doing nothing and those that occur when you are taking risks, when you’re striving to do the right thing. What is the decision at hand and the anticipated changes associated with it? Exploring your options and playing them out can sharpen your clarity of focus which leads to accuracy of response.
  • Coaching and Follow-Through: This is the most important step: a conscious dedication to the resolution of the issue in every facet: creating the desired effect, adding to the knowledge base, building loyalty, efficiency and team cohesiveness. Ask yourself: The decision is made, what needs to happen now? 

Part of decision making involves your own internal expectations that you have around the decision at hand. This is a different tool to explore. Dannemiller’s Formula for Change suggests that you will not move forward successfully in the midst of a new change initiative in life (that comes about through decision making) unless the following elements are present: 

D x V x F x L > R

  • D: Dissatisfaction with your current situation which may come in the form of frustration; confusion; overwhelm or negative perspectives.
  • V: Vision: clarity of focus leads to accuracy of response, a clear vision is essential for forward action steps to appear.
  • F: Forward Action Steps: Putting into practice simply, forward action steps create the infrastructure for sustainable change to take root and replace old patterns of thought and behavior. Creating new messaging systems within our brain through simple repetition of positive behavior result in personal transformation.
  • L: Leadership/Coaching: Mentorship and coaching have proven successful support elements resulting in positive, sustainable shift. Connecting with a coach that aligns with your personality and core belief systems is essential in order to create psychological safety for personal growth and development.
  • R: Resistance to change. It has been shown that whenever one of the above elements is missing in a person’s life that R: resistance to change will win out.

When all 4 elements are present: Dissatisfaction with your current situation or conflict, Vision, Forward Action Steps and Coaching then your desire to experience a positive, decisive SHIFT in your life will win out over any resistance, including procrastination around your next step forward to make the decision at hand.

Is coronavirus actually aiding decision making?

OK, the virus itself doesn’t actually improve decision-making, but many of my clients and other CEOs that I talk to say they’re making quicker and better decisions in “stay-at-home” mode. Why? Below are my observations. Incorporate them into your DNA or you’ll slide back into making mediocre decisions in the near future.

BP (before pandemic), there was too little emphasis on efficient communication when discussing and making decisions. Video and audio have limitations, but they tend to reduce bluster. I firmly believe that social interaction among team members is beneficial, but when it comes to analysis and decisions, focused thinking and discussion are better.

Takeaway: When (or if) you’re back in a face-to-face environment, allow for shoot-the-shit conversation, but delineate it from decision-making meetings.

BP, there were more meeting interruptions or even interruptions that prevented meetings from starting on time. Yes, you now have to shoo the cat or your kids out of your home office (nee bedroom) before a video call, but most start and end roughly on time.

Takeaway: With some discipline, you can actually manage your calendar when you’re in the office. I’ve helped talented, but whipsawed, executives tame their workweeks. Punctuality can become standard operating procedure. My son is often late to social events at our house, but when he was a Marine, he was never late for drill. The key is leaving enough open time to deal with the interruptions.

BP, participation (which is a function of your ability to facilitate a meeting) was often unequal. The person with the biggest paycheck or loudest voice got a lot more airtime. I’ve observed that there’s often more uniform participation in video. In other words, the more reticent team member who often has great input can participate, and the loudmouth has had his wings clipped a bit.

Takeaway: When you’re back in face-to-face meetings, make sure everyone participates and no one dominates. Here’s the East Coast version: “Thanks for your input, Jack — we understood your position 10 minutes ago. I’d like to hear from Jill!”

BP, people often came to meetings without preparation. Rushing from one meeting to another, they hadn’t read the background, which meant they either made bad decisions, or the meeting had to slow down so someone could read everyone in before the real discussion occurred. Remember how you used to hate the long presentations you sat through? Eliminate them!

Takeaway: Before you or anyone on your team schedules a meeting, consider what background information (focus on facts) the participants should have (no more than three pages), send it to them and demand that they show up informed. This will lead to much more productive meetings.

I’m talking about what goes on in your business with these suggestions. However, you also need to focus on building the trust, accountability and commitment outside of the decision-making meetings, or you’ll never reach your true potential as a leader nor have a highly functioning team.

Don’t let a pandemic go to waste. Capture the positive elements of decision-making that I delineated above and make them part of your operating system for good.