Developing Your Decision-Making Process

How many decisions do you make in a day? More than you should is probably the right answer. As business owners, we are inundated with questions. But as company leaders, just because we can make a decision doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. A good leader empowers others to do so as well. Easy to say but not always so easy to do.

Decisions have to be made, or your team will stumble in delivering the results and customer service that you want and expect. Sound, timely decisions build credibility, trust, confidence and momentum for your team. On the flip side, decisions that don’t end well chip away at the confidence and trust in leadership.

Here are a few questions to keep in mind to help enhance your decision-making process:

  • Who needs to be involved in making this decision?
  • Is the decision urgent and one you should make, or strategically should it involve others?
  • What are the potential positive or negative impacts of this decision?
  • Is making this decision helping you serve customers better and more efficiently?
  • Do you (or the people involved) have the skills and authority to both make and ensure the decision is carried out?

I have been at both ends of the decision-making process, and believe me, I have seen (and made) many bad decisions. The following five steps will help develop your decision-making process.

1. Empower Your Team

“Iron sharpens iron and one person sharpens another” is a proverb most of us are familiar with. When iron blades are rubbed together, each becomes sharper and more effective. Likewise, when you involve your team, you begin the process of sharpening everyone’s vision and skills for building their leadership potential.

Sound, timely decisions build credibility, trust, confidence and momentum for your team.

The line of confused employees at your door will diminish as you empower and help others lead better with the confidence of being able to make the right choices.

2. Develop Your Team

Most of us make quick, intuitive decisions based on years of experience. You instinctively bark out your answer. This is not always the best thing to do.

It is good that decisions are made quickly. It is not so good if others do not feel involved in the process. They often have the ability to solve the problem on their own. Or (warn- ing: leadership toe-stepping time!) they may even have a solution to the problem that is better than yours.

3. Encourage Team Members’ Participation

Instead of making every decision on behalf of your team, let them start being a part of the solution and not just bearers of problems. Company culture really gets a boost when this happens. Many of the best ideas come from asking the “what if…” questions.

Try this: When your team comes to you with problems, instead of just blurting out the answer, pause, look at them and ask, “What do you suggest we do?” This is a powerful and effective way to start developing your staff.

4. Realize this Isn’t a Power Struggle

Yes, there are decisions that only you can make, but encourage your team to make the rest and involve you only when necessary. One way to help them develop this skill is by setting a time limit on how long a problem can be discussed before a decision is reached. If they exceed that time, then they come to you. Have them frame the challenge and bring you ideas on dealing with it. When you develop your leadership skills to this point and show genuine trust in what they think and believe, magic starts to happen.

5. Think “We”

As a leader, you can definitely make decisions, but it just might work out better in the long run if you don’t. Peter Drucker, management consultant, educator and author, said it best: “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’ — they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function successfully. They accept responsibility and don’t side-step it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”

One land mine you need to avoid at all costs is what to do when you (or your staff) face two equally tough solutions to a problem. Many make a third choice. And it has the most damaging potential of all … it is choosing not to make a decision. RIA

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