Every leader is faced with making decisions. Many times the decisions we make will affect a lot people. This can be a weighty thing and no one in leadership wants to make a bad decision.
There are so many factors that go into making a good decision. Sometime we can overcomplicate the process and sometimes we don’t complicate it enough. But as one who has made more than his fair share of bad ones, I am learning that there are some ways to increase the likelihood that better decisions are made.
7 Steps to Better Decisions
1. Have an Open Door
Better decisions are made when we have better information. We need to listen more to the people who are closer to where the decisions we make actually take effect. We need to create an environment where anyone – no matter where they sit on the org chart – have access and feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.
2. Have a Listening Ear
An open door is of no use to a leader if he is unwilling to actually listen to the ideas of the people who walk through it. A listening ear needs to be an unbiased ear. We all walk into any conversation with presuppositions, but to be an effective listener, we have to develop the discipline of setting those aside and actually pay attention. We should approach listening by believing that if we pay attention, the idea we’re about to hear will be the one that takes everything to the next level.
3. Ask Clarifying Questions
We need to make sure we don’t miss out on the potential of ideas that are brought to us. We need to take the time as we listen to also ask enough questions to make sure we fully understand the idea that’s being presented. We should finish any conversation with a summary statement to make sure that at the very least we have clearly understood the idea.
4. Set Clear Expectations
Once we have clarity about the idea we have heard, we need to set clear expectations for the one who has offered up the idea. Clear expectations means we tell the other person how we intend to process and use the information we have received. We need to let them know what will happen next and what time frame we’ll get back to them on the veracity of the idea. We should tell them in the moment what we think, if we know for sure, or how long it will be before we will.
The reason this is so important is that if we don’t let people know what we did with their idea eventually they’ll stop bringing us ideas. Everyone of us wants feedback on the things we share with others. To leave expressed ideas blowing in the wind of indecision will just cause frustration in the ones who are bold enough to offer them. When this happens, a leader may be cutting off the possibility of making better decisions.
5. Take Your Time
I have found that the best decisions are made when some time is taken to reflect upon them. There are some occasions where there isn’t any real time to reflect and immediate decisions must be made. That is ok and simply part of the responsibility of a leader. We shouldn’t take more time than is necessary, but when more time is available it has proven wise to take it.
6. Make A Decision
Paralysis for an organization or a team sets in when a leader can’t make a decision. Leaders make decisions. Leaders are trusted by their teams to set the proper course for them and one way this happens is by making decisions. We can’t waffle or let pending decisions drift in the wind. Our teams need us to give the clarity and reason behind the decisions we make so that they can act upon them.
7. Move Forward
We will make good decisions and we will make bad ones. Regardless, once a decision is made everyone needs to move forward. A healthy organization can’t stay put for long and we will only really know if a decision that has been made is a good one after we act upon it for a season.
It is as the team or organization moves forward that this 7 step process really takes effect. Very few decisions are final decisions but just simply the next one. It is a continuous process of healthy decision making that allows everyone and everything move forward, re-evaluate and use that time to make the next best decision.