The 10 Commandments of Decision Making - Safari Solutions
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1. Thou Shalt Not Rule by Consensus

On a healthy team, where the vision is clear and everyone is on the same page, eight out of ten times, everyone will agree with the solution to a problem. However, sometimes they won’t, and someone needs to make the final decision. That someone is the leader.

Consensus management doesn’t work, period. Eventually, group consensus decisions will put you out of business. When the leader makes the final decision in these situations, not everyone will be pleased, but as long as their voices have been heard and if the team is healthy, they can usually live with it. From there, you must always present a united front moving forward.

One of the worst cases of consensus management that I’ve experienced was a company being run by its next generation of family members. The company’s growth was stagnant, and some tough decisions needed to be made to restore profitability. In our first few sessions, every time a hard decision needed to be made, either the team would retreat out of fear of hurting someone’s feelings or someone would say, “Let’s vote.” This waffling had been going on for years. They were some of the nicest people you could ever meet. Yet they would come to the next session complaining about all of the same issues and how nothing was working. After a year of forcing more openness and a few very uncomfortable sessions for some people, one of the family members finally stepped up as the company integrator and started to make the tough decisions. Finally, the ship started to turn around for them.

 2. Thou Shalt Not Be a Weenie

The solution is often simple. It’s just not always easy. You must have a strong will, firm resolve, and the willingness to make the tough decision.

 For instance, a client of mine, the integrator of a $7 million company, explains, “The toughest decision I ever made was to present an aggressive budget that would impact the partners’ compensation considerably over the next one to two years. I worked on the budget the entire fourth quarter and went back and forth many times before finally deciding to go for it the night before the meeting. At our annual meeting in January, I presented it. It was a tough sell, but I knew it was the right thing to do for the greater good of the company. It was a tough meeting and took a few hours, but they agreed. Since I received the partners’ buy-in, the company went from having our worst year to having our best year, and next year looks like more of the same. I plan on having generous partner distributions by the end of this year and moving forward.

3. Thou Shalt Be Decisive

In the classic book Think & Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill cited a study that analyzed 25,000 people who had experienced failure. Lack of decision, or procrastination, was one of the major causes. In contrast, analysis of several hundred millionaires revealed that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly and changing them slowly. It’s less important what you decide than it is that you decide … so, decide!

4. Thou Shalt Not Rely on Secondhand Information

You can’t solve an issue involving multiple people without all the parties present. If the issue at hand involves more than the people in the room, schedule a time when everyone can attend. One client calls these “pow-wows.” When someone brings him an issue involving others or secondhand information, he says, “Time for a pow-wow” and pulls everyone involved together and solves it.

5. Thou Shalt Fight for the Greater Good

Put your egos, titles, emotions, and past beliefs aside. Focus on the vision for your organization. You’ll cut through the candycoating, personalities, and politics. If you stay focused on the greater good, it will lead you to better and faster decisions.

6. Thou Shalt Not Try to Solve Them All

Take issues one at a time, in order of priority. What counts isn’t quantity but quality. You’re never going to solve all at one time. The faster you understand that, the better your odds are of staying sane. Solve the most important one first, then move on to the next. You’ll also find that when you do this, some of the other issues on the list will drop off because they were symptoms of the real issue that you solved.

7. Thou Shalt Live with It, End It, or Change It

This is a great lesson from my dad, who is a very successful entrepreneur and one of my greatest mentors. In solving an issue, he teaches that you have three options: You can  live with it, end it, or change it. There are no other choices. With this understanding, you must decide which of the three it’s going to be. If you can no longer live with the issue, you have two options: change it or end it. If you don’t have the wherewithal to do those, then agree to live with it and stop complaining. Living with it should, however, be the last resort.

8. Thou Shalt Choose Short-Term Pain and Suffering

Both long-term and short-term pain involve suffering. You have a choice with all of the issues you face. A great rule of thumb that makes this point is called “thirty-six hours of pain.”

If you’re wrestling with a tough decision, whether it involves strategy, customers, or people, and you’re procrastinating because of the prospect of it being painful, hopefully this will give you some motivation. During the growth of their company, a client kept someone around for a year too long because he was having a really hard time making the decision to let him go. What made the problem really tough was that this person had been with them through the early years. The company had outgrown him, though. He was aware of this, and, over time, his attitude had soured. The leadership team finally realized that there was simply no other option. The person was no longer right for the organization. As a result, after much anguish and soul-searching, he finally made the tough decision to let him go. A couple of days later, he called me and shared this term that’s now a staple in my work with clients: thirty-six hours of pain.

The months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to the termination were painful, but after that, he realized it was one of the best decisions he had made for the greater good of the company. He couldn’t understand why he hadn’t done it sooner. The work environment was so much better and less tense for everyone. Other employees thanked him for making the tough decision. He experienced all that pain for a year, when in hindsight he could have experienced only thirty-six hours of pain, probably for both parties. Incidentally, the terminated gentleman is now doing well and pursuing his passion. The decision was best for all.

Solve your problem now rather than later. The fear of doing it is worse than actually doing it. Choose short-term suffering.

9. Thou Shalt Enter the Danger

The issue you fear the most is the one you most need to discuss and resolve.

In tough times, people tend to freeze. When you’re afraid, your brain actually works against you. Research now shows us that when we are fearful, we use the back part of our brain, the amygdule. That’s our primal brain, developed 10,000 years ago to protect us from predators. It’s our fight-or-flight response, which doesn’t serve us well when solving business problems.

You must shift to the prefrontal part of the brain, the rational and critical thinking part. That will serve you well in the decision-making situations. The way to do this is to simply list all of the things that are worrying you: all of the problems, concerns, and fears. You can do this as an individual during your Clarity Break or as leadership in one of your meetings. Being open and honest will enable you to confront and solve your critical issues and get moving forward again.

10. Thou Shalt Take a Shot

Taking a shot means that you should propose a solution. Don’t wait around for someone else to solve it. If you’re wrong, your team will let you know. Sometimes a leadership   discussion can drag on because everyone is afraid to voice a solution, even though someone may have it right at the tip of his or her tongue. Often, a team will discuss an issue for far too long. It’ll be stuck and no one will be offering solutions, when suddenly the quietest person in the room might speak up and suggest an answer. After a few moments of silence, someone says, “That’s a good idea,” and everyone agrees. Don’t be afraid to take a shot. Yours might be the good idea.

Guest article written by Gino Wickman, EOS Worldwide.

To take a deeper drive into helping you and your team make great decisions, download Gino Wickman’s e-book Decide!.

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