Real Leaders

The Key to Better Decision-Making. Hint: Rein in the Rushing

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In today’s high velocity, always-on business environment, business leaders are expected to make rapid decisions, work at breakneck pace and achieve exceptional results — all without losing a beat. Decisiveness is an essential leadership trait. But hasty decision-making while moving too quickly is bound to lead to mistakes. Repeated mistakes. Costly mistakes. Preventable mistakes. 

Business leaders make in the vicinity of 3,500 decisions a day. Every one of these decisions, large and small, takes up mental energy. The more decisions you need to make, the more depleted you become and the less adept at making good decisions.

Rushing to decisions without fully considering the pros, cons and implications means you’re more likely to choose poorly. Sometimes these poorly made decisions will only amount to modest mistakes. Ideally, you’ll learn from them and move on. But if you’re in the habit of continually going too fast, you’re likely to make the kind of mistakes that put you, the company, your customers and investors at risk. These mistakes may require millions of dollars to remedy. They could cost you clients, employees and industry repute.

There’s a solution to all this going-too-fast, and it’s right at your fingertips. It involves simply learning how to pause and reflect before acting. Even building in a modest few minutes’ pause into your daily schedule can do wonders for seeing the bigger picture and gaining a competitive edge.

Starting now, train yourself to take your foot off the accelerator and fully assess the situation before acting or deciding.

Use these decision-making strategies when you slow down to make your plan of action:

1. Employ the “CIA” approach 

The next time you’re faced with an important decision, stop and ask yourself:

Control: “Is this a situation or decision over which I have direct control? If so, what outcome do I want to achieve?”

Influence: If you don’t have direct control, can you influence the decision or outcome? If so, how can you most effectively exert that influence?

Accept/Adapt: If you have neither control nor influence, can you accept the situation? What can you do to make it more palatable and positive? What must you do to adapt?

2. Find ways to delegate 

A thriving leader can’t allow herself to continually get pulled into the details or become bogged down by day-to-day execution. Some things simply must be delegated. Before diving in yourself, ask the following:

Capacity/Interest: Who has the capacity for the work or has an interest in taking on the opportunity? 

Promising potential: Is a direct report ready for the opportunity to stretch and learn? 

Suited for another team: Is this task best directed to a different department or team? (Be careful here: you don’t want to be viewed as someone who passes the buck.)

3. Prioritize stakeholders 

With a finite amount of time to attend to everyone’s demands, create a Stakeholder Priority Plan.” Think of all the stakeholders relevant to your success and assign each to one of three tiers:

Tier I: These are your most important stakeholders. Their support will help you rapidly progress. Conversely, their opposition will create major headaches. They are the people with whom you must closely align to move your agenda forward. Tier I stakeholders may include your manager, his or her manager and peers, your closest colleagues and leadership team. If you are the CEO, tier one includes members of the board. Important customers and clients are tier one. 

Tier II: Tier II stakeholders are a moderately lower priority, but still important. They’re the people you must influence and with whom you must have a trusting relationship — but the urgency to do so is less intense. Tier II stakeholders may include the people who work for your direct reports. They may be colleagues in other areas with whom you need to collaborate. Some of your customers and clients will fall into this category, too. 

Tier III: This tier consists of everyone else. Tier I and II get first dibs on your attention, but Tier III shouldn’t be ignored or dismissed. After all, you need to inspire and engage the entire organization. And, you never know when a small client account may turn into something big, so don’t neglect your Tier III customers. 

Better decision-making begins with refusing to be pulled into fire-fighting mode. Adjust your focus from near-term activities to the longer-term, strategic view. This will allow you to become far more proactive than reactive. Deliberately pausing to determine where you want to exert influence, where you can delegate, and where you need to focus attention will make it much easier to move forward while preventing mistakes.

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