“Truly successful decision-making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.” — Malcolm Gladwell
My own decision made: This week marks an important milestone for our firm. We are proud to have opened our newest and fifth office; that’s right, we’re expanding our presence in the Midwest and excited to be an integral part of Kansas City! In the last year, it has been my willingness to use the decision-making process outlined below to say “yes” to opening a national firm, becoming one of the very few CEO women of a search and talent firm, and cultivating a vision for the future filled with diverse and non-diverse talent that will lead me to a legacy of leadership both for our clients and our candidate placements.
As leaders, we are constantly amassing and cataloging information, working to identify and understand strategic context, and leveraging our robust experiences to determine what comes next in terms of actions, reactions and consequences. Though some decision-making is innate, it is possible to learn and refine a process that helps us make progressively better decisions. When used in the executive workplace or boardroom, this can lead us to achieve and maintain that executive “edge” for which we hope to be known and remembered.
1) Recognize Biases & Omissions
Acuity – it is our natural tendency to focus on acute sets of information when making decisions. We perform diligence, accumulate the data and form the hypothesis. We frame up the parameters of the equation. Then ready-set-go, we make the decision. The more familiar the data, the easier it is to make decisions quickly and effectively. Yet it can become all too easy to rely only on a particular set or sets of data without properly taking into account the bigger picture.
Executives who are willing to not only acknowledge what lives beyond their comfort zones but actually use it in their decision-making process can obtain a leg up on the competition. Openness and a willingness to seek outside perspectives or consider the “devil’s advocate” can push you to make new observations that can lead to new conclusions. Keep in mind that friction and dissent doesn’t always come from detractors; your closest allies might contradict your thinking and it could be the catalyst to discovering a better alternative.
2) Overcome Self-Doubt
Even as executives, we all suffer from that little voice in our heads that says, “But what if I make the wrong decision?” While some C-Suite leaders thrive on the pressure of navigating complex initiatives and making tough choices along their career paths, others find their inner voice saying, “I’m not a risk taker and that path appears to be riddled with uncertainty.” It is precisely when you come to these crossroads that you must move beyond self-doubt before it impedes progress and potentially drags you down in a manner in which you can’t recover.
Paul Rogers and Marcia W. Blenko shared in a Harvard Business Review article, “If you can’t make the right decisions quickly and effectively, and execute those decisions consistently, your business will lose ground. Indeed, making good decisions and making them happen quickly are the hallmarks of high-performing organizations …. A good decision executed quickly beats a brilliant decision implemented slowly.”
3) Don’t Forget Failures
As C-level leaders, we’ve all made more than our fair share of business decisions throughout our careers. With this experience comes an aptitude for improving future choices — that is, assuming we utilize what we’ve learned from previous successes and failures.
The past helps provide insightful context setting and leads us to frame the question at hand in a way that will help us develop better answers. Failure teaches us persistence and perseverance. It can also unlock within us the abilities to tenaciously recover, recoup from loss, and revise how we might approach certain decisions as we come to them. If you can actively address failures in a positive way, you open yourself up to successes you may not have been able to attain otherwise.
4) Have the Courage to Say “Yes”
Finally, and most importantly, we can only improve our decision-making process if we’re willing to take chances and say “yes.” Most every business executive yearns to get better at her or his craft. Naturally this includes making better choices that lead to greater success, as defined in a number of ways. Therefore, when opportunities arise that test your comfort level, decide to take a chance.
Just like in basketball, we only make the shots we take. By acting with bravery while remaining open-minded and openly reflective, our executive decision-making talents are refined. Better decisions raise the bar not only for your C-Suite skills but also for the expectations of those on your team, creating a win-win for the company. Saying yes with a resolute commitment ensures that decisions are successfully executed – with the right resources, management attention and acute communication.
Making decisions is something we do both consciously and unconsciously every minute of every hour. Yet when it’s time to address the business-altering, future-defining questions that you as a leader are faced with answering, stop for a moment to incorporate these four important steps for better outcomes. After all, what will your legacy be? Maybe now’s the time for you to decide.