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MAKING DECISIONS: PITFALLS, part 1

Picture it.  You’re the boss and you have announced to your staff that you are increasing sales goals for the quarter by 5%.  You’ve stood in front of the room and communicated clearly and sent a follow up email with more details.  Great.  Then Jamal walks into your office and says, “I’m totally with your plan but I thought you should know that for my group that won’t work.”  Jamal goes on to explain his “special circumstances” and you decide to cut him and his group some slack and only ask for 3%.  Not an hour later Georgia is on your doorstep with her “special circumstances” and goes a step further to explain why your original decision was all hosed up.  No dummy you, you tell her you’ll think about it before you make any decision for her group.  (Fool me once…)  By the end of the day you have had all your direct reports lobby for more aggressive goals and less aggressive goals and completely new commission plans and, and, and.  You listen to each idea and find merit in all of them.  On your drive home you mull over the stupidity of your original decision and come into the office the next morning and announce that you are not going to make any changes.  Oh yeah, you are The Decider all right.

What went wrong?  You shouldn’t have made a command decision on this one?  You should have used collaboration or consensus?  No.  This has less to do with method and more to do with fortitude.  You’re a wuss.  Grow a pair!  If you are influenced by everyone that walks through your door you’ll never get a damn thing done.  Not to mention that your staff will have zero respect for you and they won’t achieve enough.  You are suffering from wanting to please all the people all the time.  Ain’t going to happen.  This is life in the big world.  In reality you need to make up your mind and stick with it.  Something made you believe that increasing sales targets was the right thing to do for the business.  So what if people feel pinched by it?  Your job is to drive the business results, not make everyone comfy.

Conversely, you have determined that now is not the time for discussion or input.  You need to take the reins, use your best judgment and make a call.  You announce your decision to the team in firm, declarative sentences.  When Jeff asks if your decision is final or if there is opportunity to influence the course of events, you state, “My only desire at this point is that all of you implement this plan the moment you leave this room.  Have I made myself clear?”  The wide-eyed silence lets you know that your message has been received.

Or has it?  What do you think happens once the team leaves the room?  Lots of back slapping and “let’s roll”?  In your dreams.  Again, the error is not that you made a command decision…it’s the delivery.  When was the last time that you, a grown up, appreciated being told what to do without any explanations or discussion?  (That time when you had to show up at your in-laws doesn’t count.  Domestic peace is very, very important!)  It’s really very simple.  As business people we all accept there will be times that we absolutely hate certain decisions but we will execute on them if we understand why we have to do it.  If your team experiences this as a Jack Nicholson “you can’t handle the truth” moment, watch out.  It is condescending and disrespectful.  It’s not that I don’t get where you are coming from.  You don’t want to open a can of worms but your team will see this differently.  They will hear this as an ultimatum without any consideration as to how they manage the fallout.

So next time you need to take control, give your team an explanation for your decision and even a few minutes to bitch and push back.  Trust me, things will go much better if you do.

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