There is a pervasive myth in business that the best leaders are the ones that make the best decisions. However, recent studies have shown that this isn’t necessarily the case.
According to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review, one of the four things that set successful CEOs apart is the ability to make decisions with speed and conviction.
As it turns out, the outcome of any given decision is typically less important for an organization than how the decision was made.
As a strategist, my job was to think. I relished in intellectual complexity that came along with deep dives into various issues impacting the business. Naturally, I brought this approach to bear at BodeTree once I became CEO.
However, I quickly learned that my overly-academic approach to decision making caused unforeseen problems. My decision process led to frustrating bottlenecks inside of the organization and caused a type of paralysis that spread through the team.
As it turns out, the talents and skills that make a great strategist become a detriment when you make the jump to the role of CEO. I had to unlearn what I had learned and develop an entirely new framework for making decisions.
In doing so, realized that there were three key aspects to master to become a more decisive leader.
1)Practice reflective urgency:
For me, this came down to developing and maintaining a balanced “big picture” view of the business as a whole.
I realized that I had to be constantly aware of the most important near-term priorities and balance them with their long-term impact and the resources I had available at the moment.
Reflective urgency is a form of integrated thinking, where two conflicting ideas are held and explored at the same time. In this scenario, I learned to find the most direct path to the most important priority of the moment.
The resulting path is one that makes sense to me but often looks circuitous and confusing to members of my team. However, the benefits that resulted from the clarity and conviction of my decision outweighed any confusion in the near-term.
2)Determine your data threshold:
Earlier in my career, I wanted to gather 100% of the available data before even contemplating making a decision. Of course, looking back I realize just how ridiculous this was.
Instead, leaders have to get comfortable with their personal “data thresholds.” Personally, I’m comfortable making a definitive decision once I have about 65% of the story in place. It’s just enough to know the direction and magnitude of the decision at hand and to weigh the most salient facts.
Everybody’s data threshold is different, but it’s important that it’s under 80%. Going any higher will only slow you and the rest of your team down.
3)Remember that a wrong decision is better than no decision at all:
There are few decisions in life or business that cannot be reversed or modified. We tend to treat all business decisions as life-or-death, as though we’re being graded based on the effectiveness of the outcomes.
Of course, outcomes do matter, but it’s rare that they’re permanent. Good leaders recognize that they will inevitably make a wrong decision at some point along the way. This realization is incredibly freeing and enables leaders to make decisions more rapidly and keep things in perspective.
It’s important for leaders to remember that how a decision is made is often more important than the decision itself. Leaders who make decisions with speed and conviction might not always get things right, but they’ll be able to keep their organization moving forward.
Wrong decisions can be fixed, but indecisiveness will damage your organization and reputation beyond repair.