The will and the need to be the decision maker is important for leaders. But, like in everything, there are major risks involved in this. Because the desire can lead to situations, where the leader stops listening. That easily carries on to something much worse. You know, all of us have moments, when we don’t listen, so occasional moments are just human. But, as human beings, we operate most of the time on automated system. Which repeats the old behavior. When the behavior is related to decision making, that can cost the organization a lot! And eventually also the job the leader is holding.
The risk I mean, is that those who are strong in decisiveness, tend to do decisions often. That builds in their subconscious the thought, that they are the one who has the answer. Who hence must make the decision. Which leads to the point of “why should I even ask them, I know best”. We don’t do it because we are mean. Nor because we think others are stupid. We do it, because the personality feature has grown to an automated habit. Breaking that habit, which has roots in our personality’s strong feature, requires some effort. We all can do it, if we only build the intrinsic motivation to that.
The point of making decisions alone always limits our changes to make the best possible decision. This is why organizations always can improve their results through having an external advisor / consultant coming in. The point is in disruption of the thought process. And the exiting part of this is, that when the disruption is accepted from employees, the results are better than those reached through external advisors! I’ve been in the business of helping organizations change since 1986. My “university” of creating change was US consulting company Impac, which helped organizations improve productivity. We did that through talking with and listening to the personnel. Of those over 20 projects I was involved with, only in one there was a lay off. And that was initiated by the vice president of the organization who said “during this process, it has become clear that there is one element we do not need. That is me, so I will resign.” In other productivity improvements reached millions. To get these ideas and solutions from employees, means that the leaders must learn to make the decisions in the right way. Through looking for different solutions and ideas within the organization. Over the last 5 years I’ve worked with over 20 public organizations, mainly municipalities. In those there has always been solution that have saved anything from a 1000 € / employee / year. In the best case the positive impact reached over 600 000 € / couple of employees.
How do we know, that this is the point of not making the decision by oneself? It is actually pretty easy! You need to ask yourself “is this decision about managing a sequence or about impacting peoples motivation and organizations culture?”. When you are managing a sequence, just make the decision. When you are doing something that impacts people’s motivation, the way things are done in your organization, invite people to give you input, to participate in preparation for the decision. You might say now “we don’t have time for that”. You are right, if you are an emergency head, say working for fire brigade and at the accident site. If that is not your moment of decision making, then you have the time for the other way. You are still making the decision, no question about that. You are just inviting input to make the best possible decision. When you don’t invite people to participate, you invite constant control and corrective actions to your to-do list.
“We don’t have the time for such huge process”, is this what your mind tells you? Normal, so it does to most of us. Opening your mind to disruptive moments is not a huge process. Just simple question to the people nearby does that. Asking people questions like “what would you see as the right decision?” –> “how do you see your decision in the light of our goal of _____?”. You get actually multiple benefits! 1. you are able to make better decision 2. you get people to respect you (instead of being afraid of you) 3. people are more engaged and motivated (= productivity is higher) and 4. you ensure that you don’t join the 70 % of leaders failing due to mismanaged emotional intelligence.
How do you get to change the behavior you have been building for years? Should you un-learn something? Sorry, they have fooled you. There is no such thing as un-learning. What ever you have learnt, you have. Can you un-learn to drive a bike? Nope, but you can learn to drive the bike in a different way. And this is the key. Do not focus on “I must not make decisions so fast”, because you will fail in that. Focus on thinking “I will stop to listen for peoples suggestions every day for 4 minutes”. Then review after every day, where you did it. Every morning think of where to do it today. Yes, there will be days, when you forget it. No problem, just keep up with the habits at the end of the day and in the morning. You know, like I know too, that you have the time to do that thinking. Be that in your car / bus / metro / train / plane / walk / elevator / _____. Just have it written on your calendar as a reminder for every day for the next 40 days. You will see people’s behavior change after couple of weeks. You will find your self doing much better decision in a 3 to 4 weeks.
The right way in making decisions is the way that brings the best results. The results always come through people’s engagement and commitment. Getting people to commit, that is what makes your decision great. Remember, you are still the decision maker, you just utilize people to make even better decisions.
For some of us there is a lot of benefits available from getting to know our emotional intelligence structure better. As we know all our strong drivers (we have more than one), we can get to the point of supporting our change process through leaning on some other strong feature. That brings you faster results, makes the learning more easy and your brain loves the reward delivered through using you preference.
Would you like to take the fast track, just drop me a line. I am more than happy to tell you what others have done and reached. This might be the most important step on your career, so take it today!
Your partner in making change happen, Kari I. Mattila, emotional intelligence advisor