ABC of Living Decisions

[Update] This post from June 13th, 2013 came to mind due to a trigger lately. So I want to bring it to your attention. I’ve been re-structuring and updating it for you.

I’m writing this post based on experiences I had within the last weeks. Achieve clarity within our organization with good decision making and carry out a change in a constructive and sustainable way.

I’ve noticed both good and bad examples for a base skill I’ve taken for granted: Living decisions.

Keep on reading for my thoughts on staying authentic and building trust in your decision-making skills!

Give guidance and clarity with good decisions.

Making decisions in a complex environment can be tough. Having to make them might be a high pressure. That shouldn’t keep you from making them. In turn, I find it even more important to bring guidance into an organization with precise decisions when the environment resembles a jungle for everyone else.


Taking a decision

Facing a tough situation which requires a decision, I follow a pattern:

  1. Gather all information needed to assess the risk and impact of your decision.
  2. Think through all possible (and impossible) options.
  3. Talk with colleagues about their opinion. Consider your boss (shouldn’t go there without having your own concrete options!).
  4. Reflect the intended decision and what it would imply.
  5. Consider going back to 1) but don’t waste too much time!
  6. Make the decision and be very clear about it to everyone who might be affected.

Don’t stick to a decision just for the sake of it.

Now that you’ve made a decision, there’ll be change around you.

There’s a fine line between visionary guidance and blindly ignoring change. Latter can ruin a project success and in any case, will make the trust crumble. Without that trust, guidance won’t be easy later on as the faith into the leader would be damaged.

Be open to change. Embrace it!

Embrace it as a chance to adapt your original path and focus on a specific target. Grab new opportunities by dropping old constraints.

Find it hard to change your decision?

I’ve experienced that many people either don’t notice that their former decision is due for a change. Or – in case they notice – they don’t want to go through this change.

Why should they confess that their former decision is no longer valid? Why should they take the burden of even communicating this actively?

Because it saves time and resources for an organization! It gets them to the goal much quicker!

To make it easier in that situation, I simplified the 1-to-6 steps into three guiding principles. Here is how my ABC can help.

The ABC of refining and living decisions.

A: Assessment
Assess deeply before you decide. Better assessment makes the new decision more profound and reliable.

B: Background
Provide your organization/team with insights and a clear answer to the “Why”. It helps to seed understanding and committment.

C: Clarity
Clear and direct communication into the organization facilitates a quicker change of direction. Everyone must be clear about the change to carry it through.

My original sketch for this post looked like this:

The ABC of living decisions

The missing decision

Nothing is worse than a missing decision, because waiting for directions is exhausting for a team. Plus, the loss of momentum due to unfocused people can hardly be caught up again later. This can ruin a team’s positive attitude, especially when the pressure from above is high. With a decision being made, a desperate situation might quickly turn into a fruitful environment.

On the other hand: Consciously not making a decision is a valid approach as well. I don’t see a weakness in that as long as it’s clear, why a specific topic cannot be decided yet and what the next steps towards a decision will be. I still don’t like it if that joker is pulled too often, though.

What you should do as a servant leader:
  • Face the situation with your team
  • Provide the background why a decision cannot be made now
  • Help the team with their roadblocks that arise in the current situation

Oh no, a “wrong” decision?

In today’s endeavors, things are changing rapidly. New aspects or risks suddenly appear that have been hidden before. What if…

  • …a decision turns out to be not working out?
  • …the direction has been set, but the parameters have changed on the way?
  • …you have promised something, but cannot keep your word under the new circumstances?

One way to deal with it: Stick to the decision! With full confidence that the decision was right and still remains valid – although indicators changed – it makes sense to stick with it.

You as a leader often need to guide through a storm.
Make sure you keep direction!

I see that as absolutely valid and necessary to guide a team through heavy times. I see it as a positive characteristic and as personal strength to do so and keep the path when doubts distract from a chosen path!

Hint: Especially important, in case you’re facing situations where a group tries to constantly re-open a made decision.

Being affected by a decision?

For decisions that affect me, such transparency has always helped me to understand changing directions along the journey. I personally appreciate openness and the insight to decision-making on every level. I honor the courage of others who admit changing decisions openly.

Giving this transparency to my team has always turned out positively. It allowed me to guide my teams quicker and with more trust!

Learn to rely on your instincts.

In many cases, your instincts will guide you right. Just look back and re-think how often your well-assessed decisions have turned out identical to your spontaneous ones. If the matches are high, your gut feeling can speed up your decision process tremendously!

How often do your instincts get it right and what are your arguments in case you need to change?

Do you change?

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