As a leader, one of the most difficult aspects of the job, and most common at the same time, is decision making. Each day, leaders are constantly faced with making choices. Big or small, decisions will ultimately affect individuals, the company, or customers at any given time. Any leaders worth their salt are aware of the gravity of their decisions and the downstream ramifications regarding them.
However, after peeling back the layers of failing businesses, what we find as the number one root cause of most failures simply comes down to bad executive management decisions. These decisions, typically made in a bubble, will begin leading the company down a downward spiral. As leaders, we like to think we know best—this is why we are leaders, after all. We’ve worked tirelessly for years on end and worked our way to the top. In most respects, we know more about our businesses, industries, and products than anyone else in the company… But is this really the case? In today’s article, we are going to challenge the norm and flat out say that as a leader, you are not the smartest person in the company. You do not know more about the business, industry, and products than anyone else, and if you think you do, stop fooling yourself.
If you’ve done a good job in hiring, you’ve hired some of the best and most brilliant minds you could get your hands on. And the reality is that they in fact know more about the facets of your business than you ever will. You may have created the business or worked your way to the top, and you may have even created the products your company sells. But your team members are the ones living the individual little nuances of your business daily like building, marketing, selling, and delivering your products while interacting directly with your clients. Pop that bubble and start bringing in your team for decision making…
Now, when bringing in others to the decision-making cycle, it is not about spinning up committees or tapping your number two on the shoulder to solicit advice. There has to be a little more thoughtfulness put into the process. Here are just a few common pitfalls we see executive management make when it comes down the decision-making course and bringing in others to that process:
- Smartest man in the room: This is literally decision making in a bubble… This happens when executive management solicits zero feedback before making a decision. Quite honestly, these have the worst overall outcomes as executives usually only make decisions based upon their own narrow views, which are typically several times removed from the actual details to help influence a better decision.
- The one-man confidant: This is a favorite of ours. As humans, we naturally gravitate towards likeminded individuals. Well, that confidant you like to bounce your ideas off of is just that: a like minded individual and someone that will naturally end up agreeing with you. It is still technically making a decision in a bubble, just a slightly bigger one.
- Management roundtables: Some leaders think it is smart to use their management teams as their sounding boards, which is actually a good start to popping the bubble… But let’s not forget, they may be a little closer to the employee, product, or customer than you are. However, like you, they are still a step or two removed from the fine details and may be missing key elements that could really help influence a better decision.
- Committees: This is one our favorites. Management wants the voice of their front-line team members, so they “spin up” committees for informational sharing and decision making. They are a good start, but here’s the challenge… Once selected, committee members rarely change, and you end up hearing from the same people over and over again. Additionally, there are some people that are just not outspoken in group settings, and as a result, you may not be getting the full voice of that committee and just a hand full of outspoken individuals.
- Anonymous surveys: These typically go over much better as you get a better cross company mindshare… The one challenge is that there has been a general distrust in anything corporate. Even with items that are said to be “anonymous,” individuals may fear that if their answers do not follow the corporate line, they may be somehow reprimanded.
- Just not listening: Another favorite, and something that happens a lot, is when management solicits feedback from their teams, only to completely ignore it in the end. At the end of the day, they think they are smarter than their collective teams. Nothing will frustrate a team more than this, as they typically see right through the veiled attempt to look like you are soliciting feedback. And, again, it really is representative of making a decision in a bubble.
There are other pitfalls, such as the inability to make a decision, kneejerk reaction, or changing one’s mind on decisions too often… Regardless of the pitfall, the most dangerous decisions made are ones made in a bubble with zero input. The more input and knowledge a decision can be made with, the better the overall outcome of your decision making will be. We have a few tips we typically recommend to our clients to help influence decision making in a positive way:
- Take it to a vote (Link): Make your business a democracy and ask for your team to take it to a vote. The collective mind is always better than the one.
- Talk to your team: Literally talk to your teams… Make it a point to take time out of each day to talk to your team. You never know what you might learn by speaking to product teams and front line support or sales team members. And don’t make it a formal meeting; it freaks people out. Just get up from your desk and walk around, or pick up the phone and make a phone call.
- Talk to your customers: It still never ceases to amaze us how few executives actually speak to their clients on a continuous basis. Let’s not forget, you are in business because of them! Make it a point to schedule time daily to speak with your customers. You’ll be amazed at how much you’ll learn about them and what they like or dislike about your product.
- Never make emotional decisions: Kneejerk decisions are the worst that any leader can make and ones that we almost always regret later. Instead, when emotion comes into play, table the decision for a minimum of 24 hours or until at least the emotions have passed.
Again, the more intelligence you can gather from a decision-making basis, the more sound that decision will be… As the death of most businesses can simply come down to bad executive decisions, stop thinking you are the smartest person in the room. What other pitfalls and tips do you have? Share in the comment section below.