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8 Decision-Making Tips for Executive Leaders

How many decisions have you made so far today?  I mean, think about it. As an executive leader, starting with your early morning decision of whether to catch a few more ZzZ’s or to crack open your e-mail inbox, you make thousands of decisions in the course of just a typical day.

As you step into the workplace, or get situated behind your laptop, you are no doubt faced with more decisions than the average bear, and how you make decisions will, no doubt, have an impact on your team. And whether you enjoy it or not, decision-making just goes with the territory. In fact, when asked to list the attributes of a great boss, most people would typically include decisiveness in that list. Who wants to work with a leader who’s wishy washy or uncertain? Frankly, I’d rather chew on broken glass than work with someone who can’t make a dang decision and then run with it. But maybe that’s just me.

In fact, whether you are doing the behind the scenes work of a busy intern, or you are perched in the corner office of the C-suite, I think that most people can use some help in making decisions more effectively. Here are some practices that I’ve picked up along the way.

Decision-Making Tips for Executive Leaders

1 – Narrow down your options. Well, duh. This may seem like a no-brainer, but today we have soooo many choices that it can seem overwhelming.

Two psychologists conducted a study where they offered shoppers in an upscale store a variety of jams. On Monday they were offered a selection of 24 varieties of gourmet jam. On Tuesday, they were offered only six varieties of jam. The large display attracted more interest than the small one. But when the time came to purchase, people who saw the large display were one-tenth as likely to buy as people who saw the small display.

The bottom line is, a confused buyer says no. When you have too many choices, your mind may just shut down or go into analysis paralysis. Put them on a list and start snipping away.

2 – Expand your options. Of course, this sounds contradictory, but sometimes – especially when you’re facing an either/or situation – allowing yourself to think outside of the proverbial box can help.

Does it HAVE to be either/or? Should I fire this employee, or not? Are those really your only two options? Probably not. You might examine whether he is a good fit for your organization – is he on the right “bus?” If yes, then maybe he’s just in the wrong “seat.” A transfer to another position for which he is better suited might be your best bet. Or maybe he isn’t properly equipped for the current role, so some training and development are in order. It’s helpful to get creative when expanding your options. If he’s not a good fit for your organization, then you need to boot him off the bus.

3 – Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary emotions. This tip can be tough for people like me, because I’m not naturally super systematic and have to monitor my emotions when making big decisions. If this is the case, take out a notepad and make a list of options, then list pros and cons of each.

4 – Decide but also build consensus. The ability to make a decision is the cornerstone of good leadership, but at the same time, gaining feedback from your team is crucial. A smart leader will ask for input, actually LISTEN, and increase their employee engagement.

5 – Decide when you’ll decide. Put a deadline on paper for yourself to avoid procrastinating in ad finitum.

6 – Know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Effective leaders are calculated risk-takers. They study, consider, and analyze, but they are also ready to take the plunge when appropriate.

7 – Define your values (and/or your company values), and use them to measure your decisions. At the very start of my business, I instituted the no “A-hole Rule.” I vowed I would not work with people I didn’t like. My husband laughs at me, because he says I have that rule and yet I am always talking about how I love my clients. Ah, yeah, but I always have the option to turn away any potential client who rubs me the wrong way.

If you’re clear on your values as a leader and as a business, you will have an easier time making decisions. Period.

8 – Rip off the band-aid. The longer you procrastinate, the more the load of the decision will weigh you down. Just. Do. It.

The recipe to become a successful, decisive leader is a bit like making a good gumbo. It’s not done in a flash, and it’s an ongoing effort that takes a lot of stirring, tasting, and adjusting the seasonings.

Practicing these tips regularly, and even with the small decisions, will help you in becoming a more effective decision maker. Now, if you’ll pardon me, I’m off to lunch. Speaking of which, should I have the soup or the salad? Hmmm.

Marketing Operations Personal Development

Seven Ways to Build Online Customer Trust

How do you build a relationship of trust with your customers? It’s easiest when you can connect with them in person – you can read their expressions as you interact and more easily understand their needs and their perspective. Even in phone conversations, the customer’s tone of voice can help you ascertain their feelings. But what about building trust in an online business?

Building trust online is different. Not necessarily more difficult, but there are certain things to consider when building an online business. There are companies that have mastered the art of building trust online and have the reputation and accolades to prove it. Some of these, such as Apple and Sephora, are ranked at the top for both their traditional and online customer service, while others, including Zappos and Amazon, originated online and built trust through smart practices to rise to the top. Here are some basic ways to build customer trust online:

1. Keep it simple. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and go through the motions of navigating your website and placing an order. Is the website easy to understand and simple to navigate?

2. Be accessible. People do business with people. Offer multiple channels through which a customer can reach you for support or questions – a call center, email, texting, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

3. Post contact information prominently. Put it on every page of your website. Make it easy for a customer to call, email, or connect with you instantly.

4. Keep telephone hold times to a minimum. Customers who have to wait on hold get frustrated and feel as if the company doesn’t care enough to staff properly. You might want to make use of technology that can let the customer know how long the wait will be and give the option of an automatic call-back.

5. Respond quickly on social channels. When a customer contacts you through social media, you should respond within minutes – not hours or days. Continuously monitor your social media channels.

6. Share testimonials from happy customers. This social proof from others will help build trust and increase potential customers’ confidence in doing business with you.

7. Ask your customers to post online reviews. Encourage reviews from not only those who have had a great customer experience throughout, but also any customers who may have had a problem and were satisfied with your handling of the issue.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, award-winning keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

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The 40-Day Leadership Challenge

Aren’t there times when you wish you could yell “do over!” and start with a clean slate, like you did as a kid? The good news is, even though it might not be enough to simply declare the “do over,” it is possible to start again on a clean page. How? Take my 40-Day Leadership Challenge.

For Christians, the forty days before Easter are known as Lent, reflecting the forty days that Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert before his crucifixion and resurrection. During this time, many people make forty-day sacrifices like giving up sweets, eating in between meals, or video games; or making some extra effort like reading the Bible daily, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. The idea is that it should be a time of purification, after which you emerge as a better person and closer to God. But it strikes me that, at a deeper level, there is a universally valuable leadership challenge and lesson inherent in this kind of experience.

Everyone has some relationship, whether professional or personal, that could be improved. Maybe there’s someone who perpetually rubs you the wrong way. Or on a grander scale, maybe you need to project a more compelling leadership image you project for people to see you as a leader to admire. Fundamentally, relationships are made and broken by the communication patterns they promote, and it’s up to you to take the first step towards making these patterns healthier, more respectful and more productive, based on how you choose to communicate.

All you have to do is take that first step today, and then another one each day for the next 39 days. That’s your personal 40-Day Leadership Challenge. Pick something that is difficult enough so that you can’t do it mindlessly; it will require a conscious effort for it to be successful. The goal is that after 40 days, you will replace old, bad habits with positive new ones, which will not only make you a better person, but will improve the lives of others around you.

So where should you start? You might choose to “fast” from gossip or snarky comments, both in conversation and email. Hold your tongue instead of criticizing someone in public even when others do, or let the other person get the last word even when you want to add more.

Perhaps you have a tendency to be blunt, dramatic or insensitive in some contexts. If that’s the case, try committing to a 40-day diplomacy challenge. You could also abstain from exaggeration, swearing, or drama for 40 days, or opt to walk away from a conversation when you feel yourself starting to get heated – then be sure to follow up later when you feel more focused and composed.

On the flip side, maybe you try to avoid conflict at all costs. For you, the challenge could be committing to address problems rather than letting them fester and hoping they go away on their own.

If nothing else, try this: Simply make an effort to explicitly thank people for their efforts, big or small. You’ll be amazed at what a big impression such a small gesture can make. I promise you it won’t go unnoticed.

Remember: it doesn’t have to be 40 days of consecutive perfection; it’s about 40 days of conscious effort to be a better person, and a better leader. Even if you fall off the proverbial bandwagon occasionally, it’s okay! Try putting a dollar in a jar every time you realize you’ve broken your commitment, and after your 40 days, donate the money in the jar to charity. No matter how often you put money in the “oops” jar, you still get to call a “do over” the next day!

And the best part? It doesn’t matter which 40 days you choose, whether at the start of the new year, during your summer vacation or any other time. By the end of your 40 Day Leadership Challenge, others will feel the difference through smoother and more collaborative exchanges, and your new patterns should start to feel natural and replace the old ones. That’s the best way to build the foundation of a new kind of leadership that makes others want to follow suit.


Want to discuss your potential 40-Day Leadership Challenge? Email me at laura@vocalimpactproductions.com or click to set up a 20-minute focus call with me personally.

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