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Four decision making habits of high-performing leaders
And an announcement...
Over the years, I have trained and coached hundreds of C-level leaders on their effectiveness. I’ve been surprised by how much time is wasted debating the details of certain decisions. This energy could have been spent on the strategic questions the business faces.
Below are four decision-making habits of high-performing leadership teams:
#1: Ask clarifying questions before reacting
When faced with a decision, hold back giving your reactions before fully understanding the proposal. Ask clarifying questions - these are questions to understand, not to react/vent/influence/judge:
✅ “What did you mean by …?”
✅ “Why did you decide to …?”
✅ “What alternatives did you consider?”
❌ “Have you thought of (my better idea)?”
❌ “Why didn’t you consider …?”
Read a more detailed post here.
#2: Ask ‘is it safe-to-try’ instead of ‘is it perfect?’
Instead of trying to make the perfect decision, ask if the proposed decision is ‘safe-to-try.’ Meaning: is it safe to try this, to learn if it works, get some data, and then come back for another decision if we need to?
Notice that this bar is very different from the usual bar that we make decisions with: ‘is this the best decision?’ or ‘how can we integrate everyone’s opinion in it?’ or ‘how can we make sure this won’t fail?’ or ‘how can we make sure this won’t backfire or frustrate [leader x]?’
#3 Use a different process for reversible and irreversible decisions
If a decision is *reversible* (like most are), don’t spend too long debating it. Decide quickly to learn if the decision is correct, then steer again when you have more data.
Instead of spending hours and hours debating slide decks (that others have spent hours and hours making for you), come up with the smallest possible experiment that will give you valuable insights. Then run that experiment, and look at the lessons learned.
#4 Clarity on which types of decisions need group consent and which don’t
Make the decision rights of members within the team explicit. Perhaps the head of marketing has full authority over how to run the marketing campaign. They don’t need to ask the team for approval whenever they initiate something.
Similarly, some decisions might require everyone in the leadership team to consent. For example, when someone wants to spend more than €100k. Or when making a decision that affects multiple team members.
The best teams make explicit agreements about the decision rights of 1. individual members and their roles, 2. the team as a whole, 3. when to go beyond the team to get consent.
I'm hosting a series of webinars for business leaders. The first is centered around the '20 habits of high-performing leadership teams' (July 18th) To stay in the loop and receive all updates about the upcoming sessions, register here.
In this newsletter, I’ve covered habits #1-#4. Stay tuned for #5-#20! Next week: improvement habits.
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