Decisions, Decisions, Decisions
It may well be that the most intellectually strenuous role of the senior executive is that of chief decision maker. Whether pastor, company president or governor of a state, the unrelenting barrage of questions demanding answers is enervating to say the least. Perhaps CEO should be changed to Chief Decision Maker (CDM). All this is one of the reasons state governors tend to do better in the White House than legislators. They are used to the constant decisions, at least at the state level.
Where do you want the ...
When should we start the …
Should we buy the ...
Do you want me to sell the ...
Are you going to fire…
And so on and so on and so on. It's never ending.
To complicate matters even more, in any given day none of the decisions may seem to connect. This can leave the CEO with a scattered feeling; the sense that out of all the decisions and meetings and battery of questions, what has been accomplished?
At the National Institute of Christian Leadership, I teach an entire session on decision making. For use in that lecture I have designed what I call the Risk-Reward Decision Making Quadrilateral. I cannot go through the entire teaching in this brief post, but I want to share a few points which I hope will be helpful.
- Don't waste time and energy trying to make a perfect decision in any area where the risk and the reward are low. In other words, don't make a big deal out of decisions which cannot help or hurt very much. Make such decisions quickly and move on. Your decisions in such matters do not have to be perfect. They do have get made. What you decide may not make a huge difference in any major outcome. I can assure you this. The CDM who manifests brain freeze on the easy stuff will rapidly lose the confidence of the staff.
- By the same token, don't make nuclear decisions with a hip shot. When the risk-reward ratio is at the top, take your time. Gather information. Do not allow yourself to be rushed. Eventually the decision will have to be made and all eyes will turn to the CDM. Having said that, a hurried and unthought out decision, even if it turns out well, invites staff criticism as well as apprehension about the outcome in future crises.
Listen to your wise advisors. Spend time processing various cost-benefit models as well as you can. Make sure you have the right people in the room. Don't waste the human capital in your organization. There are people who work for you who know things you need to hear. They will not tell you unless you convince them you want to know and that they will be safe if they tell you the truth.
III. When you announce your decision, thank those who have helped you in the process. If the risk is high, tell the truth. If the potential reward is also high, explain as well as you can, the possible positive and negative outcomes. Try to assure your people that this risky decision is worth it. Be as positive as you can without sounding sappy.
If the decision turns out to be the wrong one, take the blame. If it turns right, praise your people and share the glory.
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