A decision delayed is decision denied. A leader owns the decision he takes. There is no best way to take decisions. Leaders can have different decision making styles. However, there are some common traits which do result in better decisions. Decision making is needed to be followed-up with appropriate action to translate the decision to outcomes.
Demonstrating at Individual Level
- Makes sound decisions and takes action when necessary even with incomplete data: One either does not have enough information, or does not have the band-width or time to get the complete data for taking decision. Given the speed of change and hyper competition, a leader will have to keep a cap on when he has to take a decision. A leader generally does not have the time to wait endlessly for more and more information. A leader makes the best of the available information, tops it with the opinions of the experts, his experience and finally uses his judgment to take the decision.
- Uses good judgment in deciding whether to act or escalate: Organizations are not looking for solo heroes. They look for people who ask for help when needed. A good leader will know his capacity to handle a situation and can discern on what is doable and what is not doable by him. A leader will set organizations objectives as more important than his desire to prove himself.
- Flexibility on decision making approach given the time available and criticality of decision: A leader is able to adjust his decision making style depending upon the situation. This is a rather rare quality in leaders. A leader will spend less time on routine decisions, and decisions with little consequence. He will be more detailed on strategic decisions. He will take faster decisions, when needed, by making assumptions and with calculated risks.
- Appropriately considers impacts, risks and contingencies when making decisions: This is related to the science of making decisions. A leader follows a methodology for decision making, whereby he looks at the stakeholders, the alternatives, the analysis of each alternative in terms of impacts, risks, contingencies, financial outcomes etc...
- Takes initiative to address opportunities when they arise: A leader has to be an opportunist (in a positive sense). A leader not only grabs an opportunity but is also ready for it in terms of skills and capability.
Demonstrating at Managerial Level
- Encourages and empowers others to make decisions: A leader develops the decision-making strengths (and the ownership that goes with it) down the levels. The practice of 'leader take the decision and the team implements' is becoming less relevant, as it adds drag to an organization (refer tip empower frontline staff). A leader will gradually delegate the decision making to lower levels along with appropriate control mechanisms in place. A leader will provide the empowerment to people to take the decisions and then will standby them for the decisions taken.
- Takes into account implications of decisions on stake-holders: A leader is stakeholder sensitive. He takes decisions while keeping in mind the impact on the stakeholders including his own team. He involves OR takes a sign-off, OR informs his stakeholder on his decisions, depending upon the level of impact decision can have on the stakeholder.
- Holds others accountable for making sound decisions: A leader makes his team understand that with empowerment of decision-making, also comes the ownership. He holds his people responsible for the outcome of the decisions they have taken. A leader does standby the decisions taken by his people, but keeps the accountability squarely with the decision-maker.
- Coaches others in effective decision making: A leader ensures that his team understands the decision making methodologies, techniques and principles. He encourages them to develop capabilities related to analysis, alternatives development, information gathering, building appropriate assumptions etc...
Demonstrating at Strategic Level
- Readiness to take tough decision: Leadership is about taking tough and sometimes unpopular decision. A leader will drive his decisions with a high sense of conviction. He will engage people and stakeholders around the decision. Even if he does not get support from all quarters, he will work with perseverance to drive the actions related to his decisions. A leader understands that one has to adopt different decision making style ranging from an 'Executive Decision' to 'Consensus' based decisioning, depending on the decision.
- Willing to take trade-offs: A leader will understand that there is nothing like a utopian alternative. Every alternative has its trade-offs and pros and cons. He is ready to accept the trade-offs which give best value-proposition for the shareholders. Some examples are shifting of jobs, outsourcing, closing a product line, change in the strategic suppliers etc...
- Take dispassionate and impartial decisions: A leader has to display objectivity in taking decision. He will keep aside his own likings and pet initiatives/products. He will not be swayed by the effort and monies already spent on a questionable product/initiatives.
- Involve key stakeholders in taking decisions: A leader knows that involving the right stakeholders at the right time, is the best way to gain their support and successful execution of the decision. The involvement can include the following:
- Taking inputs and guidance
- Take sign-off and authorization
- Informing proactively to ensure that the stakeholders are prepared to support (for example internal and external suppliers...)
- Keeping in loop for the possible impact...
A leader will be smart on how much involvement he will seek from which stakeholder and at what time.
- Ensure contingency and mid-course corrections for risky decisions: A leader stays alive to the risks linked to the decision as well as the softness of the assumptions linked to the decision. He builds plan B (and C if needed), and invokes the same at right check-point. He also keeps on watching the validation of the assumptions, and if any of the assumptions don't bear out in reality, he fine-tunes his decision.