Project Oxygen: How to Be a Strong Decision Maker

“As leaders, we are ridiculously in charge. Are you building the environment you want or just allowing things to happen?”

Dr. Henry Cloud, author of “Boundaries for Leaders”

As the leader, everyone is coming to you to make a decision or validate one. What you say or do determines whether your organization will continue down a path or change focus. At times, it can feel overwhelming to be the one ultimately responsible for the success or failure of your company. As demonstrated in the quote above by the leadership expert Henry Cloud, sometimes the magnitude of our control takes us by surprise as we realize there are no excuses, only us.

This ability to be “the decider” is vital to the effectiveness of any leader. We know from the findings of Google’s Project Oxygen that the tenth quality of an excellent manager is to be a strong decision maker. Some of us might feel that we are naturally good at making decisions, while others struggle with uncertainty and second-guessing. So, what is the best way to make a decision and how do we know it’s a solid one?

At Institute Success, we understand that it takes a structured course of action to make the best decisions, and we share with our clients a ten-step process for problem-solving and decision-making. Through our workshops, we can help you find your own system for making the best decisions for long-term success at your company. Give us a call to see how we can help. In the meantime, here are a few tips:

The Art of Delegation

Many people are familiar with the advice from renowned coach and management consultant David Allen for getting things done. His “Four D’s” method of approaching any To-Do list, whether personal or professional, include putting every task into one of four categories (Do It, Delegate It, Defer It or Delete It). When it comes to making decisions, most business leaders need help with either “Doing” or “Delegating,” and especially with delegating.

We have some tips to help you with delegating, and before you can put them to work, you must have the right team in place. We already know that when making a decision, leaders must have the self-awareness necessary to begin with the end in mind and have clarity about the destination. An essential step is making sure they have a team with the skills, habits and values that will help them achieve their unique organizational goals.

Ideally as a leader, you have surrounded yourself with others who have different expertise than you. It is not necessary for you to have all the answers, instead you must operate with a shared purpose and incorporate the best of what you’ve seen and heard from the experts around you when making a decision. You must understand how your decisions will impact everyone in the organization. 

Only then can you engage in the art of delegation to execute your plan or problem-solving strategy. You can start this way:

  1. Make a Request: First, check the skills and knowledge of those you are delegating to and give authority commensurate with the responsibility. If you choose someone under you to share your latest decision with the rest of the firm and that person has poor communication skills, then your message will not come through. (This creates ambiguity rather than clarity, which leads to dissatisfaction and disagreement.) Lastly, give a time commitment to hold everyone accountable.
  2. Get Agreement: Ask questions to get clarity from all parties. Come to agreements where everyone feels valued and is using their natural strengths. This leads to higher productivity and engagement. Create a framework for ongoing support. 
  3. Check In: Measure results and modify if needed. Share feedback of what’s working and what isn’t. This is one of the most important things a leader can do, to go back. It’s critical to the decision-making process. Talk about results and conclusions and remember to acknowledge success!

When you are authentic with yourself about your vision, choose the right team, set goals that incorporate the best of what you have seen and heard, and involve all stakeholders in the decision-making process, you are well on your way to making a decision that works for you. Remember to communicate clearly to everyone on the team how they are responsible for meeting those goals and make sure you know your responsibility for meeting them. 

Institute Success Tip: Leaders are often quick to hire and slow to fire. We need a better hiring process and we need to better understand how to best train and develop our employees.  We also need to learn the art of having “critical conversations” when things are not in alignment. Ask us how we can help you have better critical conversations with your staff.