Partners, Leadership

Great Leaders Sharpen Their Decision-Making Skills

Karen Seketa
August 5, 2016

Great Leaders Sharpen Their Decision-Making Skills

"The only reason you have a problem is that you haven't made a decision."

This is the opening line to a white paper by Gino Wickman of EOS Worldwide, titled, Decide! The One Common Denominator of All Great Leaders. In this white paper, Gino attributes the ability to make good decisions to great companies with great leaders.

It sounds so simple: Make a decision. But this is the key reason why leaders and companies fail. Analysis paralysis, overcomplicating simple decisions, debate, review, delay. It is a recipe for disaster, but it happens all the time.

Why do so many leaders fail at the basic task for making decisions? They have no foundation upon which to make them; no common direction or clearly communicated path. When you don't know where you’re going, it is almost impossible to make good decisions about how to get there.

Let's start with some basic steps:

  1. Define your Core Values. Who are you as an organization? What are your non-negotiables when adding people to your team? What are the basic pillars your company was built upon?
  2. Define your Core Focus. Where do you excel? Why do you exist?
  3. What is your 10-year target? Without defining where you intend to go, you will have no way of knowing if the people on your team are aligned with your direction. It is important to know this early so you can build a team that is moving in the same direction as you.
  4. Who is your ideal customer? How do you reach them? Do not try to be all things to all people; you just don't need them all and you cannot please them all. Be specific in where you intend to focus and spend your time and energy here.
  5. What is your three-year picture? Eliminate organizational confusion by creating a picture of where you are headed in the not too distant future. Get your team excited so they can rally around your direction.

Once you have these basics worked out, your next step is to have clarity and confidence in your plan, and to communicate it effectively and consistently throughout your organization. I recently posted a video blog on exactly this topic, so take a peek here.

As a leader, you have to take what Gino Wickman calls "clarity breaks." You have to step back and look at the big picture on a regular basis to calibrate and ensure that you are still on the right track. It is easy to keep your head down and become myopic with your internal view.

My favorite advice has to be the Ten Commandments of Good Decision Making. While I will not list them all here, I have selected a few that relate to decision-making skills.

  • Thou Shalt Not Rule by Consensus. I love this one because it states without reservation that Consensus Management does not work, period. Eventually, group consensus decisions will put you out of business. Part of being a leader is making the tough calls, so do it.
  • Thou Shalt Not be a Weenie. Another classic. While the solution is often simple, it’s not always easy. Be strong enough to make the difficult decisions. That is your job as the leader.
  • Thou Shalt Not Rely on Secondhand Information. You cannot and should not make decisions or solve issues without all parties present. My natural cynicism says there are many more than two sides to any story. Make sure you are properly informed.
  • Thou Shalt Enter the Danger. The issue you fear the most is the one you most need to solve. Stop avoiding and go in and solve it.

There is so much great advice out there around leadership and decision making that it can become overwhelming just getting started. My advice? Boil it down the basics, and gather the confidence and insights you need to get started and lead. Don't be a weenie.

Originally published on the Element Three Blog.

Karen Seketa is the VP of Talent at Element Three, an Indianapolis-based full service brand and marketing agency that works to solve the most pressing sales and marketing challenges facing executives today. With over two decades of staffing and recruiting experience under her belt, she works every day to foster and grow a culture that ensures the agency continues to attract and retain the best marketing talent the industry has to offer.