Leading By Deciding

If you as the leader of the pack want to lead others to maximum success and fun, you have to take decisions. Deciding is not easy. Because when choosing one option you have to decide against all alternatives. And since we do not know in advance if our decision is really right, taking decisions may make us feel uncomfortable.
That’s why some people hesitate to make decisions – out of fear or comfort. They are afraid to make a decision that later on turns out to be wrong. Or they are too comfortable to take responsibility for their decision and prefer to sit and wait.
When we make decisions, our in-going intent is of course to make the right decision. Who would ever want to make mistakes? Noone. In advance, we always want to make the right decision, especially on big important issues. As a Leitwolf you have to decide, what is the right way? How do we get there well and fast, so that our customers are truly happy with our offer?
On the other hand, we have to allow mistakes to happen, both to others and to ourselves. Because wherever humans are involved, mistakes will happen. In today’s world, there are so many options and often strong competitors that force us to evolve, walk new unproven paths and take calculated risk. In a sense, the biggest mistake of all is to make no mistakes, because if you don’t make any mistake, you do not take any risk. And without any risk, there is little or no progress, while the world around us advances quickly.

As a good leader, you take decisions and help yourself and others to achieve clarity and success.

Here are my 4 best suggestions for you to lead by deciding:


1. Always decide:

Have you ever made a clear proposal to your boss in an important project without getting any decision? How did that make you feel? What did that trigger in you? I experienced situations like that. I felt frustrated. I was surprised, disappointed, and felt left alone. The worst part was, I was forced to pause, I could not do anything because I was not allowed to move. And I was demotivated because, in my eyes, we wasted valuable time while my competitors continued to advance.
The worst decision is no decision. That’s why I encourage you in your role as leader, make a decision, say yes or no. And if you really are not sure yet what the right decision is, then at least clearly state what information you still need to be comfortable to make a decision. And then decide. The worst decision is no decision.
If you decide, of course, a “no” can be the best decision. I once had the pleasure of working with Steve Jobs and his Apple team to launch the very first iPhone in Europe. I noticed at the time that one of the great strengths of Steve Jobs was his ability and discipline to clearly say no, when, for example, one of Apple’s products was not good enough yet to truly delight customers. Then he repeatedly postponed our launch date that had been planned for months in advance. He once said, “We at Apple are just as proud of the things we do, as we are about things we do not do.” I believe that kind of consistency and discipline in decision-making is one of Apple’s key success factors.
Therefore Tip 1: Always decide!

2. Decide clearly, communicate clearly:

In order for your team to be motivated and successful, you must make a clear decision as the leader of the pack and communicate clearly. If you are the decision maker, then you should clearly say “yes” or “no,” not “maybe.” If someone else in your team makes the decision, then help them make good decisions by asking good questions.
In addition, the decision should be communicated to all those who need to be informed. In doing so, use clear language. If you decide, do not use a wobbly, non-binding language that says things like, “Maybe we should try to do x y z…”. That kind of language confuses, creates ambiguity and uncertainty in others. Instead, use clear words like “You can, I want to, we will” or “We set ourselves the following goal and will do the following.” This language gives clarity, confidence and guidance to others and releases constructive energy in exactly the direction you want to take. So decide clearly, communicate clearly.

3. Always give a reason:

Please always give a reason for your decisions. Only if others understand why the decision is right, why it makes sense for your company and for them, only then they are motivated to perform to the max. In light of their own perspectives, your team members might have taken a decision that is different from yours. Therefore, giving a strong reason helps them understand why you have made that choice, especially with very controversial decisions. Your employees do not expect you to always make the decision they want. But in my view they can expect you as a leader to make a clear decision and argue why you decide that way. Then they are much more likely to follow you and deliver in a motivated manner. Therefore, always give a reason.

4. Decide quickly:

Yes, there are a few decisions where virtually every risk has to be eliminated, because the decision has far-reaching implications for your company and a mistake might turn out to be expensive. In these situations you need to take enough time to take the right decision. Examples are: company purchases or personnel decisions. If your company wants to take over another company, this decision must be well prepared. Here you should only decide once you have done everything reasonable, have seen all necessary information, discussed and evaluated it properly. I think in these cases quality of decision making is more important than speed.

The same applies to personnel decisions. Candidates you want to hire for your company must first and foremost match your company culture. If you have even the slightest doubt about that already in the recruitment interview, then decide against and wait for the right candidate, because particularly in personnel decisions, patience pays off.
But the vast majority of decisions you make in your daily professional life allow for or even require a quick decision. Deciding quickly becomes more and more important. Your customers expect it, your competitors do it. In many situations it is not right to delay your decision until you are 100% sure not to make a mistake. Instead you should already decide when you are 95% sure that your basic direction is right. The rest you will optimize along the way during implementation. Make sure to ask the right questions. When discussing the fundamental strategic direction of a business, then the wrong question is whether the last detail of the execution is good enough. The better question is: “Is this the right decision, is this the right direction for our customers and for our company?” And if the answer is “yes”, then decide – and quickly. And optimize the rest along the way.

Net, my 4 best suggestions for you for leading by deciding are:

  1. Always decide
  2. Decide clearly, communicate clearly
  3. Always give a reason
  4. Decide quickly

Thank you very much for your attention,
your Stefan Homeister

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