Susan Steinbrecher, CEO and president of Steinbrecher and Associates, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
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 ultimately prolong the decision-making process. These actions can ultimately set off frustration and tend to create a lack of trust and/or loss of respect for the leader among their team.
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.
A recent study surveyed more than 600 board directors and determined that women are more likely to consider the rights of others and take a cooperative approach to decision-making. According to the study, women feel less constrained by traditional approaches to decision-making utilizing collaboration and consensus building in the process. Women also tend to ask more questions throughout the process while recognizing many sides of an issue and are often able to see obstacles ahead of the curve. [Read related article: Women Make Better Business Decisions]
It may be a definitive advantage in any organization 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 percent higher return on equity, a 66 percent higher return on invested capital and a 42 percent higher return on sales (Joy et al., 2007).
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 timeframe 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.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.