Business leaders who have developed a cooperative approach to decision-making understand that people need to be valued, respected, listened to and involved. This approach translates into better performance for their companies. It also yields more streamlined results as the inability to make sound decisions means your company could suffer greatly, as nothing will ever get done.
This inherent fear of making a mistake is one of the most common reasons that lead to "risk aversion," or the inability to move forward with decisions. Another common setback is that many leaders get caught up in "analysis paralysis." This plays out in the form of incessant information gathering: statistics, surveys and the like that can prolong the decision-making process.
Sometimes top-level management will bury their heads in the sand and truly believe that change or new direction decisions are not necessary. This type of leader would rather uphold the status quo than look at new ideas which can be counter-productive, particularly considering our current high-speed business and economic environment.
It may be a definitive advantage to appoint women to top-tier positions, including positions on company boards. In fact, the study points out that boards with higher female representation experience a 53% higher return on equity, a 66% higher return on invested capital and a 42% higher return on sales.
What is a decisive leader?
A crucial aspect of being a successful leader is the ability to make decisions that are time-sensitive and well-informed. Decisive leaders are those who seek out the appropriate information that is necessary to make a good decision and they demonstrate an understanding of the knowledge held by their colleagues, direct reports and leaders.
In the workplace, decisiveness is key for effectively executing plans and achieving set goals. Decisive leaders have the ability to balance the costs of continuing to gather information, deliberate and delay a decision versus the costs of making poor choices. They are aware of competing costs, and they weigh them carefully, but most importantly, a decisive leader makes decisions that are clear and final.
The qualities of a decisive leader
Decisiveness isn't a skill that people typically talk about, but it is extremely important to successful leadership. For example, have you ever worked with a leader who could not make up their mind; they were always asking others what they thought, but they never came up with any conclusions themselves? If you have experienced this, you understand how frustrating an indecisive leader may be. Some of the benefits of being a decisive leader for employees and the company include:
- Decisive leaders are responsible and accountable. Decisive leaders take responsibility for the effect their decisions have on the company and other, and they are committed to following through on the actions needed to carry out a decision.
- They are confident. Decisive leaders deliver their messages with clarity and confidence, which makes it unlikely for others to second-guess their decisions.
- Once they reach a decision, they are slow to change their mind. Being decisive doesn't entail being arrogant, stubborn or hasty, it simply means having the ability to make decisions with clarity. Decisive leaders can be slow to change their mind. This is because they trust their instincts.
Being a decisive leader is a highly desirable skill, especially when it comes to running a business. There are very few people who are willing to put their trust in someone that overthinks and goes back and forth over basic decisions.
How to be a better collaborative decision-maker
Allocate a specific period of time for adequate analysis of the decision. Assign a deadline for the decision and make the time frame known to your team and at least one confidant or mentor so that you are held accountable to the dates. If you are particularly risk-averse, ask your confidant/mentor to challenge you, and point out when and why you may be holding up the decision process.
Encourage feedback from your team and gain the perspective from various people integral to the business, when possible. Whether it is HR, marketing, sales, R&D, or operations; their voice may bring through a different perspective that you had not considered. Listen before speaking. Create an environment where feedback is expected and appreciated.
Assign a team or person to challenge the status quo and build it into the process of your monthly meetings. It's important to have someone play "devil’s advocate" with all major decisions. This will present a well-rounded view during the decision-making process.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, know your impact as a leader and decision-maker. Walk your talk by saying what you mean, and don't hide behind corporate rhetoric. Get out of the ivory tower, and get involved with other departments and employee projects as often as your schedule allows. Follow the golden rules of engagement with your employees at every level by treating each one with the respect and consideration that they deserve.
And remember, if you don't have solid, timely decisions and guidance, all those around you have something to lose: employees, customers and stakeholders. Without sound decision-making the entire business – not to mention your position – is at risk.