Important decisions shouldn’t be made in haste, nor should they be relegated to the sidelines collecting dust. Important decisions must be thoughtful, effective, and made efficiently.
So, how can you forge ahead with a stalled decision? Begin by asking yourself why you haven’t made the decision yet.
Maybe you need more time to gather information. That’s fine, but don’t use that as an excuse to keep kicking the decision down the road. Set (and stick to) a deadline for collecting the insights and information you need to make the right decision and then decide.
Another reason people procrastinate with decision-making is to avoid upsetting anyone. I get it, but again, that’s not an excuse. Leaders must make tough decisions, and while you can’t prevent everyone from being upset about them, you can choose how you arrive at your decision and how you help people adjust to that decision. The decision I most often see leaders procrastinate on, often to the detriment of their organization, is peoples decisions. In particular, the moving or removing of an employee who is unable or unwilling to perform their job at the level required.
I promise, ignoring this problem won’t make it go away—it will make it worse. A person who is unable or unwilling to perform their job weighs down their team and subsequently, the organization. Your indecision has potentially forced an entire team, through no fault of their own, to underperform. Probably not your intended goal, right?
Here’s the thing; just as every decision you make has consequences, so does every decision you choose not to make.
I can’t think of a scenario that serves as a better example on this challenge than during an organization’s transformational journey, because to transform, a company must cultivate a culture that attracts and fulfills those who are Ready, Willing, and Able (RWA). That requires the organization’s leaders to make truly tough decisions about people.
Now, I’m not suggesting a process in which anyone who is currently not RWA is terminated—that would be unwise. What I am suggesting is establishing a decision process. Here’s what that would look like:
- Determine who will be included in the decision-making process and together determine the necessary components to the culture transformation:
- Decide what the transformational culture must be.
- Assess and decide what attributes, skills, and experience are required to develop that culture.
- Assess and decide if current jobs/positions are still necessary. If so, do they require a different set of attributes, skills, and experience?
- Assess and decide what new jobs/positions and additional people assets are needed to successfully transform.
- Assess and decide the resources, support, and timeline necessary for the organization to level up current employees to RWA and attract new RWA talent.
- Now that you know what needs to be done, establish a timeline and accountability for each component of the process and stick to it.
By leaning into the challenge and developing a decision framework, the leader and their team will have the confidence to make thoughtful and effective people decisions that will fuel their organization’s transformation culture.
This process is true of every decision you make as a leader with or without a transformation. The style of that decision-making process will vary based on the leader’s styles and the circumstances around the decision. Once the decision has been made, equally critical is how you communicate the information to those impacted.
In his article How to Communicate a Tough Decision to Your Team, author Joseph Grenny offers six principles for communicating difficult news.
- Don’t bury the lead
When the time for sharing the bad news has come, don’t try to soften it with unrelated or irrelevant pretext. Instead, lead with a thoughtful and clear explanation of the decision.
Give your listeners time to take in the initial news before proceeding with more detailed information. Make eye contact with as many individuals as you can during this pause.
- Offer understanding and take responsibility — but don’t expect agreement
Once everyone has had a moment to digest the information, provide the reasoning behind the decision and the factors that directed it. As the leader, it’s critical that you take responsibility for the decision even if you were not one of the decision-makers. And finally, respect that those impacted by the decision may not agree with it.
- Show Empathy
Express your understanding of the impact on those affected by the decision, and, if relevant, explain the reasoning for the timing of the decision. Allow people time beyond this initial conversation to process the information and acknowledge their feelings.
- End with openness
Let everyone know that you are available for follow-up conversations and that you will be available to support them any way you can as they move through the next steps.
- Prove it
Follow through. Don’t wait for people to come to you; reach out to see how they are managing and offer ways in which you may be able to support them as they move forward.
Now, you’re ready to act on that decision and tee up your next one.