indian lab technician working in the laboratoryHow effective are your day-to-day plans, decisions, and actions?

One of my #GreatBosses told me a story that sheds light on good decision-making.

A leader and follower were discussing an important project. The follower felt the pressure of performing well as the lead on this project.

It was the first formal leadership role she’d been given. She wanted to inspire her team members to high performance while making them feel trusted, honored, and respected.

She asked her boss, “How do I ensure I’m leading my team well?”

The leader said, “Leading well requires only one thing.” The leader paused.

The follower asked, “What is that one thing?”

The leader said, “Good decisions!” The leader paused again.

The follower asked, “How to I ensure I’m making good decisions?”

Experience!” the leader replied. The leader paused again.

The follower asked, “How do I get experience?”

The leader said, “Bad decisions!

(This story is based on a quote from Mark Twain, the great American author and humorist.)

I took away three key insights from this story.

Don’t be Afraid to Make Decisions

All leaders struggle with making good decisions.

Some struggle because they don’t want to disappoint a portion of their followers. Some struggle because they’re in new territory; they don’t have a proven knowledge base and the risks of any decision are high. Some struggle because they don’t have enough data. Some struggle because they can see the benefits of opposing arguments.

The biggest negative impact of these struggles? Decisions don’t get made.

The reality is that not making a decision is a decision.

#GreatBosses know their job is to lead their team – and to make the best decisions they can, moment to moment. So, make decisions.

Involve Key Players in Decisions

Surround yourself with trusted, talented colleagues. Invite them into the decision making process. Explain the opportunity and the context. Let them express their opinions, the pros and cons as they see them.

Seek insight from those that will be directly affected by the decision – which may mean involving far-flung, front line team members.

Listen. Consider. Then decide.

Ask for Feedback on Decisions

Once the decision is made, examining the impact of the decision begins. Ask those affected by the decision for their views on the impact of the decision. Ask early and often!

Listen without defending. Learn what unintended consequences might have been prompted by the decision.

Then refine the decision to reduce the negative impact and boost the positive impact.

If the decision turns out to have far more negative results than positive ones, rescind the decision. Explain why – and thank people for their feedback.

Then, decide again. Involve others again. Get feedback from others again.

These experiences will help you make more good decisions.

What do you think? How good are your decisions – or your bosses decisions? To what extent do you or your company’s leaders involve others in decision-making? Is feedback sought out to assess decisions or not so much? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

Get your free copy of my ChangeThis manifesto, “What? Your Organization Doesn’t Have a Constitution?

Add your experiences to two fast & free research projects I have underway. The Great Boss Assessment compares your current boss’ behaviors with those of great bosses. The Performance-Values Assessment compares your organization’s culture practices to those of high performing, values-aligned organizations. Results and analysis are available on my research page.

My new book from Wiley, The Culture Engine, guides leaders to create workplace inspiration with an organizational constitution. Get your free sample chapter here.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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