C-Suite Network™

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.

Jennifer Ledet

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