Choosing the right managers for your business can cause a bit of stress. And one of the most crucial elements of any manager’s job is the ability to make decisions.
In fact, those decisions are often significant. They’re probably the highest-value decisions in your business.
Anyone familiar with the stress of handing over significant responsibility, will be familiar with sense of uncertainty surrounding the decisions that others will make. Getting them right will make the business flourish. Getting them wrong will, well, who knows?
Unfortunately, the outcomes of those big decisions are often not clear for many months – and waiting to see the results simply isn’t viable.
The key is knowing how well your managers are making effective decisions. Decisions you can trust. And most of the time you’ll need a framework through which to assist them improve their decision-making.
Luckily, it’s possible to assess these skills within a week. In fact, it’s possible to do so in a way that lets you coach your managers to improve their skills.
Whilst this may not be an exhaustive list, there are seven practices that most effective decision-makers demonstrate.
All seven factors can be observed quickly and are excellent lead indicators of the quality of decisions that will be made. All seven are quickly learned and your managers can use each of these in honing their decision-making.
1. Decisions are made at a good speed
You’re not looking for knee-jerk decisions….but your managers need to make decisions efficiently.
When confronted with any meaningful decision, how many times do they return to the matter before deciding their approach?
Do they just ignore it for a couple of days? Or do they assess the situation, select how to approach it and, on that basis, make the decision?
2. Decisions are made objectively
When your managers make a decision, is it based on facts? Do they use appropriate analysis?
Perhaps utilising similar past events? Do they apply rational logic to the situation? Or do they lean too often and too heavily on their gut feel?
Their intuition? The mood they’re in?
Of course, these are important… but they shouldn’t be the basis for significant decisions.
3. They seek input from others
Ultimately your managers will have to make decisions. However, those decisions need not, and should not, be reflective of their opinion alone.
Active input from others will inevitably improve the quality of those decisions. Do they engage others appropriate to the situation?
Do they actively seek other opinions?
Even opposing opinions? Do they genuinely consider other alternatives with an open mind?
Or do they rely too heavily on their own thoughts and opinions, leaving their decisions vulnerable to the biases of human psychology?
4. They don’t resort to consensus decision-making
Yes, engaging others and considering other views and alternatives with an open mind will improve the quality of your managers’ decisions.
However, this should never become a license to simply pursue consensus. Do you see your managers trying to “make everyone happy” with their decisions?
Are they seeking the input of too many people perhaps? Are they reluctant to draw a line and conclude a decision?
5. Complex situations are effectively simplified to facilitate ease of decision-making
The decisions that must be made by your managers will often involve complicated situations, with many variables involved.
The best (most effective and most efficient) decision-makers tend to be very good at simplifying these situations.
They distil the variables to leave only the most important, thus enabling easier decision-making.
When confronted with a complex situation, do your managers first break down the situation as a way of focussing on the most relevant considerations?
Are they able to simplify complex situations in a way that adds clarity and facilitates more straight-forward decisions?
6. They prioritise and delegate accordingly
In reality, challenging decisions demand appropriate time for consideration, as well as significant mental energy and focus.
A manager cannot make an infinite number of such decisions. In fact, to maintain a high quality of decision, a manager should probably limit themselves to a small number of significant decisions in, say, a day.
For example, Jeff Bezos famously limits himself to only three. Of course, this is only possible if the manager is disciplined about selecting those that truly warrant their time and focus and those that can be delegated to team members.
Are your managers delegating sufficiently to their team? Are they judging appropriately which decisions to delegate and which to make themselves?
7. They take ownership
In the end, however the decision is made, it must actually be made. The input will not always be perfect and there will not always be a clearly “correct” decision. Such is the nature of management.
But once the decision is made, your manager must own it. They should display the conviction to stand by their decisions; otherwise, your business will inevitably lack consistency and will flounder without direction.
Do your managers own their decisions? Or do you see them blaming others, making excuses or perhaps just being a little too vague about the responsibility for the decision?
None of these elements is, by itself, difficult to develop, though they often require a change of habit. In any one manager, there may be several elements that need improvement.
Each of these can be observed quickly – typically within a few days. But remember, observe them carefully, identify any gaps and if there are several then reconsider your choice of manager.
Generally, if there are only few, use the list to help your manager improve.
The decisions your managers make are valuable and often crucial to the success of your business.
These points provide a simple framework to ensure effective decision-making, that in time, delivers good decisions.
Executive coach Andrew Laurie has been a sole-trader, a managing director of a multi-billion dollar company and most things in between. He’s published business books, lectured at Business Schools and was recently recognised as the Global Executive Coach of the Year for 2018.