Decision Making – How To Make Good Decisions

Decision Making Questions You Can Use Today

If you haven’t already encountered this, you will do at some point in your management career. Indeed, you might be doing this already – not making a decision on an important matter.
Indecision Is A Decision

Decision making trainingAt work, there is likely to be an occasion or two when you want to get a decision from someone. It could be a commitment from a person who is performing below par and needs to raise their game, or your boss who has a hundred different decisions to make, and bosses to please, so the decision you require keeps getting delayed.

Here are a few questions you can ask to help someone making a (good) decision.
What information do you require (from me or from elsewhere) to make a decision now/today?’
This question helps the person think about what they need, not what you are offering and helps them be more response-able for their thinking.If you had already made the most appropriate decision on this (subject) what information, data and other factors would you have considered to reach your decision?’
This question puts them in the position of having already made the decision and takes a different thinking position. Acting ‘AS IF‘ is a very effective thinking technique.Could you please help me understand what stops you from making a decision/approving my decision?’
This question helps to unblock thinking and may draw out sensitive information or even a blind spot.If your Manager was advising you of what decision to make that was good for all stakeholders, what would s/he recommend to you?’
This question gets the person to consider what their boss would appreciate and disapprove of. Bear in mind, people often comply with authority, so it’s essential the decision is not made purely on position in a structure chart.
What currently stops you from making a good decision now?’
how to make good decisionsYou may find that their indecision relates to an internal issue such as ‘I’m not feeling confident‘ or ‘If I get this decision wrong, my boss will go crazy‘, or it could be an external decision such as ‘The data I need to make a good decision isn’t yet available‘ or ‘The deadline is still two hours away so I’m going to wait’. When you have identified whether it’s an internal or external motivating factor, you can explore the reason/s in more detail.
What would your most trusted colleague advise you to do if s/he was aware of this situation and your indecision?
This question creates some head space for your colleague. Instead of asking ‘What are you doing to do?’, the question relates to a trusted third-party. When the trusted third-party becomes involved, your colleague will be able to view their situation or predicament more clearly, and with less emotion and fear.
Help People Think For Themselves
An unwillingness to make a decision is a decision in itself. If you are to help people make better quality decisions, and more quickly, you must provide them with the time and space to think for themselves.

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Poor Performance Is No Accident

Managing a poor performer is one of the most frustrating, draining and time consuming activity you as a manager will need to deal with.  If you have already had to deal with a poor performance issue, you’ll already know how challenging it can be, time wise and emotionally.

Poor performance can occur for many reasons; some of the most common reasons including:-

The individual is not capable or technically competent at a task, so cannot perform to the required standard.

The good news is, you can work with this, on the job coaching and peer to peer coaching is a fantastic way to help a team member improve their competence and reach the required standard, quickly and with low time investment.

The individual is not willing to perform to the required standard, however much you attempt to support, coaching and manage him or her will not help purely because s/he won’t accept it.

The bad news is, in this instance, your energy, focus, time and motivation are tested to the limit.  Other team members who perhaps deserve your attention, coaching and support may tend to not get it, purely because, alongside you having to deliver multiple projects to ridiculously tight deadlines, the ‘poor performer’ is getting the attention.

The Challenge

If a team members is flat out refusing to perform, rather than not being able to perform, how should you address the issue?  When is enough, really enough?  When should your HR Manager (if your organisation has one) get involved?  How do you minimise the potential for a tough talk becoming a stand-off, or full blown battle of personalities?  Here are a few thoughts from what we have repeatedly witnessed working in client organisations.

Firstly, explore whether the challenge is ‘can’t do’ or ‘won’t do’.  Understanding which of these applies is your first step to understanding whether structured coaching support is required and helpful, or whether the issue is more one of attitude.

For ‘can’t do’, discuss and agree what specific coaching on which specific task, skill or competence is required.  Step out of your own shoes as an under pressure manager, step in to your team member’s shoes and design your support to equip your colleague with tools they need, rather than just what you think they need.

For ‘won’t do’, follow Steven Covey’s recommendation by ‘Seeking first to understand, and then be understood’.  However emotive the ‘won’t do’ issue may be, however unacceptable the individual’s behaviour and attitude may be, manage your focus and ask ‘Just so I can understand your reason/s for not wanting to perform to the standard the organisation expects of you, please will you write them down and then share them with me?’  Why is this approach so effective?  Firstly, you may receive some feedback you normally wouldn’t have; this may include feedback about you, your personal impact, management style or communication approach which your team member doesn’t welcome or appreciate.  This is valuable feedback…if it isn’t given in an ‘attack’ mindset.

Secondly, when you ask your colleague to write down their reason/s for under performing, this creates emotional pressure to actually commit in ink, information it would be rather difficult for him or her to withdraw at any point in the future.  Remember, your role and intention is not to undermine or catch out your colleague, but to understand his or her reason/s for not performing as they trusted to do, and implement a practical and worthwhile improvement plan.

Know when to involve your HR team and line manager.  In most cases of ‘won’t do’, it is best to involve HR and line manager earlier rather than later in the process.  Even if involving them is just to help them understand an issue which requires and deserves resolving exists. Don’t for a moment believe that resolving the issue on your own is the best thing to do with the ‘I’m the manager…I’ll resolve it’ attitude.

Such commendable commitments have fallen foul of hr policy and legislation in the past – and you really don’t want to be on that list!  Instead, check your HR policy and procedures and be guided by them.  Doing the process correctly may take a little time, but don’t rush the process; instead, let the process take its course.

Ask your ‘won’t do’ and ‘can’t do’ colleagues, ‘If there were two things I could do to support you to improve your effectiveness, what would they be?’  This authentic, somewhat surprising question begins to focus their brain on solutions, collaboration and, transparent dialogue.  When you have asked the question, just be quiet, and listen.  Don’t feel the need or urge to cover any awkward silence from your colleague.  S/he may just be thinking and reflecting.  When answers and solutions do begin to appear, collaborate to agree a course of action, and share responsibility for turning around the current level of performance.

Yes, this is all easier said than done..But it can be done!  And you’ll be able to focus more on doing the few things that really matter, rather than the many things that don’t.

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Do Your Words Cause Damage?

Have you ever considered the impact that your language has on yourself and also on other people?

OK, you have probably had one or two occasions when you have said something in the heat of the moment that you’ve later regretted. Ouch! But what about everyday language, phrases that don’t sound like they are harmful, but really can be.

Think about these little nuggets:

I’ve spoken to him til I’m blue in the face‘…No you haven’t. A blue face usually means you’re either choking or your body is freezing. Nothing more. Have you ever seen someone’s face go blue just because they’re a little peeved at someone?

He’s too long in the tooth to learn anything new‘. What have long teeth got to do with someone’s ability and/or willingness to learn?

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks‘. Well, unless you work in a zoo or for the RSPCA, there’s unlikely to be any dogs or tricks. Yet again, a few carefully selected words can cause problems.

There aren’t enough hours in the day‘.  Yes there are, there’s always 24.  The challenge is how you choose to use them.

During my very early years in executive and management development, some one to one coaching sessions could become rather heated. The key reason was the client had something on his or her mind and this forum was the only or safest place to be really open and genuine – which is always a humbling expression of trust.

One such instance which I do have permission to share with you is when a very demanding boss who felt he was CONSTANTLY being LET DOWN by his 4 direct reports had reached THE END OF THE LINE (what line?) and was intent on taking these individuals OFF LINE (nice way of saying a real rollocking) and a PIECE OF MY MIND. He had been KICKED IN THE TEETH and STABBED IN THE BACK so many times that enough was enough, and he was going to put an end to it!

This client was usually very assertive in his communication, but by no means aggressive. Thankfully, our brief relationship had developed in to a high level trust relationship and we had permission to question, challenge and disagree with each other, but only on the condition that such behaviour would help him develop and grow. So here’s what happened.

After listening to a full 7 minutes of profanities from him, mixed in with a table leg being kicked, by him, profuse perspiring, again, from him, and my ears losing their feeling, I politely asked ‘May I see your teeth?’. ‘What?’ he replied, somewhat shocked by my unusual request. ‘May I see your teeth, just for a moment. I’d really like to see your gnashers‘, posturing with a big smile and clattering my teeth for full effect.

His anger turned to shock, his shock quickly morphed to confusion, all in a matter of seconds. I continued, ‘OK, you won’t show me your teeth, I understand….so please take off your shirt.’ This was a risky step. What reaction would I receive? Well, it was one of extreme anger. But not directed at me. I just happened to be a trustworthy vehicle on which to transport his learning. ‘PROFANITY, no way pal’, was followed a second or two later with a relieved smile on his face and a raucous belly laugh as he pointed to me and said ‘I know what you’re up to Scott. You want to see all of the knife scars on my back don’t you?’. ‘Absolutely, and I’m sure there are many, aren’t there?’ I replied.

Bingo, The Light At The End of The Tunnel Has Been Switched On!

From this moment on, the coaching session became a calm, thinking environment where the few things that mattered most to him and his company were thought through, talked through and solutions to each of the problems generated. And all in less than 2 hours.

During the following 3 months, 3 of his managers began to perform better than they had ever done, while 1 other left the organisation by mutual agreement. The executive came to realise that if his team were failing, he was playing an active role in this happening. And, if his team were to perform optimally, he had an important role to play in achieving this too.

Just think what the possible outcome could have been if this really decent, technically brilliant, hard-working and caring man had handled the situation in the manner he initially had intended. Managers could have been the walking wounded(oh, there I go, I’m doing it now), and their brains would have counted this latest verbal assault as the norm.

So remember, be very careful about the language you use and also, check understanding of what other people actually mean when they use old cliches to express how they are feeling at any given moment. It could save you many headaches and a few heartaches too.

Are your managers really aware of the impact, both positive and negative, they are having on their team members, peers and your stakeholders? If not, it may be a good thing for you to invest some time with them to boost their self awareness and self management skills. It won’t take long and could pay significant dividends for your organisation.

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If you haven’t already, why not sign up for our 2 week Introduction To The Secrets of Top Performers email course?  You’ll learn how to boost your personal effectiveness, enhance team engagement, motivation and productivity and significantly improve your personal credibility.

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