As leaders, we are faced with decisions that need to be made on a daily basis. Many of them, especially the ones that are governed by cultural norms, societal principles or organisational procedures and policies, are easy to make – the decisions, in a sense, have already been made for one. Others prove to be more difficult to negotiate and impact the experiences of other people. For example, decisions to restructure a business, bringing an end to a project or relocating the business to another city can have huge repercussions on the lives of employees and the community as a whole. Decisions do need to be made, however, hopefully ones that mitigate against risk and care for the human element in the fallout.

Leaders often spend considerable time building action plans through charts, responsibility grids and accountability matrices, however, once the direction has been established, the leader must make decisions about making things happen. It is here that things often go awry as a result of a manager’s seeming inability to make day to day decisions or decisions that speak to clarity and confidence. Decision ambiguity leads to delayed or random behaviour and confuses the employees. A pattern of decisions shapes the leader’s personal brand. A leader chooses what information to process, how and with whom to spend time, which meetings to attend and what matters come to his or her attention. The decisions that constantly are made around these issues mould the leadership style and ultimately the confidence of the employees in the leader. If decisions are erratic and unpredictable, faith in leadership ability quickly wanes.

Through the decisions that are made, a leader has the ability to remove unnecessary processes or procedures, unblock communication channels, open up doors to make employee tasks easier, create a better work environment and give quick answers to issues that employees are facing. A lack of awareness or procrastination regarding work-related decision-making frustrates people and impedes seamless production procedures. Employees are then faced with unnecessary mountains to climb to get the job done. Productivity levels, as a result, diminish.

Perhaps David Ulrich’s (Changing the Way We Change) simple decision considerations could be helpful for decision-making for all managers here:

  1. What decision do I need to make? (What are the two or three important decisions that I need to make in the next 30 days or so?)
  2. Who is going to make the decision? (Is this a committee decision or can I make it myself? Are there any governance issues of which I should be aware?)
  3. When is the decision going to be made? (What are the pressing deadlines? A deadline forces deliberation and discussion and brings the same to a head)
  4. How will we make a good decision? (Am I aware of the quality level of the required decision? Am I aware of all the options? Have I consulted enough?)

Leaders pass the decisiveness and decision test not only when they know what they want, what the options are for getting there and which options seem to work best, but also when they have named the key decisions. These decisions will move the change along and shape new patterns or identity that emerges from the change.

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