A core quality I look for in a manager is decisiveness — I want managers to make decisions and take action. I have yet to find a strong results-focused manager who was not decisive. When decisions need to be made, effective managers gather the facts, analyze the situation, consider alternatives, and decide on the best course of action — and they do it quickly! They don’t procrastinate, and they certainly don’t stand around wringing their hands. They move!
Further, once a decision is made, there is no looking back. The time for constructive dissent has passed. Instead, it is time for all members of the team to get behind the decision with 100 percent buy-in, even if their recommended course of action was not taken, and it is incumbent upon the manager to ensure this happens. Even the best decision can be undermined by lack of support and backroom second guessing.
Decisive managers understand that their decisions may not be perfect and, therefore, that modifications may be needed. They don’t hesitate to modify or alter their decisions when it becomes clear that the original decision isn’t working out exactly as planned. The effective manager knows that making a decision and taking action is almost always better than taking no action at all.
Frank was conducting a leadership session , in Toronto, Canada. It was a retreat for top-level managers. He asked the group about the outcomes of their decision making: “If you could go back through all the decisions you made in the last year, what percentage of those decisions would you make in exactly the same way?” The consensus of the group was about 50 percent. One participant said that even though he would change about 50 percent of his decisions in some way, he wouldn’t want to get out of the “decision-making business.”
Some managers postpone tough decisions with the rationale that they aren’t hurting their organization if they wait until things look clearer and an obvious decision can be made. This rationalization couldn’t be further from the truth. Many a manager has experienced missed opportunities resulting from this way of thinking. You need to gather facts and data, analyze them, consider alternatives, and move forward, making the best decision you can at the time with the information that is available.
It comes with risk
I know that making decisions and taking action comes at a risk. After all, you may make a mistake. It has always been my preference to take the risk anyway. I’ve never considered making an honest mistake to be a career-interrupting event for myself or the people who have worked for me. However, making a mistake, realizing it, and not taking immediate action to correct it could very well be. Too often, ego and pride get in the way of taking corrective action, and the result is wasted time and energy.
The hardest decisions to make are usually the ones for which managers receive many different opinions on the best course of action. For some managers, myriad opinions would be reason not to decide at all. My advice to managers has always been to use their best judgment, choose a course of action, and get on with it. Furthermore, I always advise that if the decision proves not to be the right one, fix it as quickly as possible.
Have you ever had a manager who just couldn’t make a decision? Unfortunately, there are many of them out there, and they are very frustrating to work for. As compared with consensus-building managers who procrastinate in making decisions, though they eventually will regardless of how late or watered down, here I’m referring to managers who just can’t make a decision at all. Perhaps they lack self-confidence, believing they are unable to make the right decisions, so they take no action. These managers can be salvaged if they work for strong leaders who force decisions to be made.
Other managers might simply be lazy, or they don’t want to take the time required to make good decisions. They are comfortable with the status quo and don’t see, or choose not to see, that their decisions are necessary. These are the managers who usually can’t be salvaged and need to find another line of work — one that does not involve managing people.
Denny F. Strigl, former president and CEO of Verizon Wireless, spent four decades in the telecommunications industry. He serves on the board of directors of the Eastman Kodak Company, PNC Financial Services and PNC Bank, and Anadigics, Inc.
Frank Swiatek is a performance consultant and speaker who has had more than 3,400 speaking engagements and seminars and has worked for more than 25 Fortune 500 companies, including Verizon Wireless. For more information on their book please visit AmazonSubscribe to the Podcast