4 Questions in 4 Days that Strengthen Teams and Elevate Performance – Pt. 3
Failure to make decisions is worse than making wrong decisions. At least you can change wrong decisions. You can learn from bad decisions.
Failure to decide is surrender.
Strong people grow feeble until they make a decision.
Today’s question: What decision do you/we need to make?
Before you go very far in a conversation, determine the decisions that need to be made. You infuse conversations with meaning when you ask, “What decision do we/you need to make?”
Unfocused conversations propagate the myth that things get done when we talk. Meetings suck because people feel they did something, when all they did was talk.
Today’s question provides focus for people who talk too much. When the conversation goes astray, interrupt and say, “I’m lost. How does that relate to the decision we/you need to make?”
When someone starts a conversation with you, ask, “What decision do YOU need to make?”
Use “you” instead of “we”. It’s not enough to make decisions. Leaders enable others to make decisions.
Making decisions makes people feel powerful.
Provide guidance for people to make decisions.
- Highlight values that inform decisions. Roy Disney said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.”
- Describe and discuss outcomes.
- Explore impact on others.
Not enough information:
Delay makes tough decisions tougher and bold people timid. Ask, “If this is all the information you will ever have, what decision do you need to make today?”
Decisions don’t matter until someone takes action.
Peter Drucker said, “Unless a decision has “degenerated into work” it is not a decision; it is at best a good intention.”
Tip: Use today’s question in meetings or when people walk up to you with a question.
When is it not appropriate to ask, “What decision do you/we need to make today? When is it appropriate?
Other posts in the “4 Questions” series:
Part 1: What small wins might you celebrate today?
Part 2: How do you want to show up today?
Part 4: What would you like to do a little more of next week?
Dan, thank you for sharing! This is insightful for what my part is for the various roles I serve in.
Thanks Brooke. Happy leading!
Hi Dan: “Unfocused conversations propagate the myth that things get done when we talk.” This really resonated with me and I think is so true. I have been to too many meetings where this appears to be the theme and unfortunately gives conversations in the workplace a bad rap. Focusing on questions such as the one above can create enormous value and move everyone towards success. Thank you.
Thanks Kathy. I’m so glad this resonates with you. Your observation about meetings is my experience as well. I find myself slipping into a way of thinking that wrongly believes talking and doing are the same thing. It’s easy to do.
Happy decision making.
Decisions should be taken in sound state of mind. Therefore when people are in good mind, they should not be asked to make decisions. Similarly, There could be two occasions when it is appropriate to make decisions- when you are complacent and life is just passing on. There is no charm, energy and enthusiasm in life. Secondly, when you do not in a situation that does not promise growth. Alternatively, you are on the path that you do not have clear idea. Decisions are taken for growth.
When you are powerless to bring change in your environment, that is the time, you need to make decisions. It is even more important to analyse your capacity while making decisions. Decisions in the well-established system may not effect much. However, decisions made where you have unlimited scope to grow, promises growth. When you make decision is such situation, you create a new world.
I appreciate you point, wrong decision is better than no- decision. Decision making induces confidence whereas no-decision making lowers confidence.
Thanks Dr. Gupta. Your insights are helpful. One sentence is both a challenge and encouragement to me. “When you are powerless to bring change in your environment, that is the time, you need to make decisions.”
We might use feeling powerless as a reason to not make a decisions. But the opposite is true.
Dan, I’ve sat in many meeting were the consequences of decisions are discussed, and quite a number those discussions have gone along the lines of “if the wrong decision is made, heads are going to roll”.
In the aftermath, I recall one colleague being asked what he decision he had to make, and replying that he needed to decide if he was prepared to get fired for making a mistake.
Thanks Mitch. Organizational culture is a major factor in decision-making. If we expect people to make bold decisions, we must plan to stand with them through thick and thin.
I would say that as a company, we are getting better at having meetings with a defined agenda and what solutions we would like to come up with. We do have those times were we go into the weeds, but people have been pointing that out more, by saying “Reel it in” or “Let’s not engineer the solution in here”. We at least come up with a plan to find a solution, rather than trying to solve world problems in an hour long meeting. I would say that meeting facilitation is a skill that many people may not be well versed in.
I would also like to address that decisions that can impact a whole company, should be made by those leading the company and it should not be made by only one VP or department. That happens quite often here and sometimes it may have something to do with the safety of the company, and safety is not even included in the decision making. We are trying to integrate ourselves more. This happened just last week, so I created my own meeting with the same individuals to ensure the safety dept. was okay with the decisions being made. It is just another growing opportunity for everyone.
Hi Jenna. I’m really enjoying your comments. Love the transparency and forward-facing orientation you have. After curiosity, I think a forward-facing perspective is essential. Actually, forward-facing curiosity captures both ideas.
You know something is integrating into culture when language changes. The way we talk to each other both expresses and forms culture. Thanks!
How do you suggest dealing with an organizational culture that resists making decisions? We repeatedly “need more information.” We need a full review of what other organizations do, then work out every detail, before deciding if we want to take action or not. I think it would be better to make a choice and address consequences if/when they arise, but I’m surrounded by doomsayers who can come up with reasons against any proposed action.
Susan when you find out, please tell me! I’m constantly told that we can’t innovate because the regulatory culture is ultra-conservative (and becoming more so!) and if the regulator doesn’t like what we prepare on behalf of the client, the client won’t come back!
Hi Susan. You’ve asked a great question. The first thing that comes to mind is it doesn’t do much good to pressure people to make decisions before they’re ready. They tend to dig in rather than open up.
I wonder what happens if you shorten the timeline. You might talk to the team about decision making. First, say what you see. “I notice that most of our decisions take about 60 days or 90 days to make.” Get some agreement on how long typical decisions take. (Perhaps a few private conversations with more influential team members would be a good option.)
After you agree on the typical time it takes to make a decision, ask, “What happens in your thinking if we cut that time in half for the next decision we make?”
Be aware that they might not value speedy decision-making. If this is the case, speak to other values. For example, “I know we value meeting customer expectations. I wonder how speeding up our decision-making process might better serve our customers?”
“I know we value being relevant to our constituent. I wonder if we might be even more relevant if we cut our decision-making time by 25%?”
You adopt a decision-making plan. Here’s a starter.
1. Determine on a scale of 1 – 10 how important the decision is. “1” – the decision has little impact. 10 – if you get the decision wrong, the barn will burn down. Take more time with decisions that rank higher.
2. Generate a list of options. Don’t do research. What are possible options? Generate a long list.
3. By consensus choose three options from the list.
4. Assign people to research one of the options. (Stay open to the idea that research might reveal another option. Set a deadline. For example, in two weeks we’ll discuss our options.
5. Meet to discuss pros and cons of each option. If a viable alternative was uncovered during the research stage, replace one of the three options with an alternative. Don’t allow more than three options on the table.
6. After discussing alternatives, ask everyone to vote on their preferred option.
7. If you see consensus, ask, “What prevents us from making the decision right now?”
8. If you don’t see consensus, send everyone away for a week of research on the three options on the table.
9. Make the decision.
10. Evaluate the decision-making process. Ask, “How might we make our decision-making process more efficient?”
Well, there are a few thoughts. Thanks again for your comment and question.
Make me think… and write an article about disruptive innovation in https://www.linkedin.com/groups/718907/718907-6327157634692640769