Ask professionals to share the qualities of a great leader and you’ll get a long list. But one of them trumps all the rest: decisiveness. You can be likable, collaborative and trustworthy, but if you lack decisiveness, you fail to lead.
Most organizations face a crisis of opportunities. Every day, leaders are expected to make many small and big decisions. Some have short-term gains, while others have a lasting impact. They all matter. Good leaders are good decision-makers.
Here are a few keys to success:
- Rule out a middle vote.
Maybe is the easiest vote, but it’s ineffective. Take maybe off the table when making decisions in your organization. Challenge yourself and your team to choose yes or no. Then, talk about why.
- Expect a quick turnaround.
The time it takes to decide depends on the issue at hand. Easy decisions can happen the same day – or on the spot. When making harder decisions, it’s often best to take a night to sleep on it. Few decisions should take more than 48 hours to make.
- Don’t be afraid to be wrong.
As leaders, we will not always make the right decisions. Don’t let that hold you back. Doing nothing can be far more damaging. Choose progress over perfection. I haven’t always made the right decisions, and there are repercussions – but that is part of leadership. You’re not always going to be right, but once a leader is labeled as indecisive, it’s hard to recover.
- Let logic drive the decision.
Focus on the facts and use common sense. This does not mean feelings have no place in decision-making. They do. But they can block logic. It’s the job of leaders to temper feelings and be level-headed. Applying logic can make decision-making easier.
- Prep people for the decision.
Discuss the idea prematurely with key people involved in the decision. Give each of them time to assess, share obstacles and process it with you. Ask questions that will help everyone identify the best path. Then, when you believe a decision is headed in a certain direction, share it individually with the people impacted before a decision is made in a meeting or made public.
- Be prepared to change your mind.
When seeking input and gathering facts, keep an open mind. Ask open-ended questions, and let the feedback and data help you make a more informed decision. Sometimes you have to change your mind. Just don’t do it all the time, or you risk coming across as indecisive.
- Identify your criteria upfront.
Determine the key factors that will guide the decision-making process. One of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make was selling our office furniture division. It is where I started my career, where many of my friends worked, and it was still a profitable part of our business. But it did not fit our business strategy, and that was a key factor in the decision-making process.
Decision-making can be the hardest part of leadership. Yet it is what defines us as leaders. As CEO at Marco, one of my major roles is to make and facilitate sound decisions. As leaders, we cannot leave items unattended. We’re expected to decide. Having a track record of good decisions goes a long way in gaining followership.