Decisions, decisions! Your business lives or dies, thrives or falters, and is energized or paralyzed not only on the basis of the actual decisions that are made but – critically – on how those decisions are made. In fact, it is possible to make the right decision but make it in the wrong way. And, guess what? Even the value of a “good” decision is undermined if the decision-making process itself is at fault.
With that in mind, here are three decisions about decision-making that will damage your business every time.
1. The Decision to Infringe
The first bad decision is the decision to step outside your role and infringe upon someone else’s decision-making responsibilities. For example, the head of sales decides to tell the marketing staff what they should do, undercutting the priorities that have been set by the head of marketing. Or, the CEO decides to grab control of a project’s execution rather than allowing the project manager to do her job.
It does not matter what decisions are made or the validity of those decisions: the decision to infringe disrespects the chain of command, undermines others’ rightful authority, and creates an environment of distrust.
Often, the decision to infringe is made when a leader (not uncommonly a founder or CEO) feels that it is their “right” to do anything they want, and/or when they feel that their decision is “the right one” but they do not want to engage in the harder work of dialogue with the person who actually has the role and responsibility to make the decision. The decision to infringe is an end-run around another person. It is a short-cut that cuts someone else out.
If you make the decision to infringe, the leader whose decision-making territory you have invaded can potentially become angry (“That was rude!”), less-motivated (“Why should I bother?”), and self-doubtful (“Am I the wrong person for this role?”). You can also expect the employees who are impacted to become confused (“Who should I be taking orders from?”) and less productive (“I’ll wait to see who wins this round before I do anything.”)
The Right Decision: Stay in your lane! If you have input about a decision, engage the correct decision-maker in dialogue and collaborate together. But respect that the ultimate decision is theirs – not yours.
2. The Decision to Ignore
The second bad decision is ignoring decisions that have already been made by the appropriate person by allowing employees to shop around for a decision they prefer … and by supplying that preferred decision.
This can be a very subtle trap. After all, you might say, “I didn’t step out of my lane … the employee came to me with a question and I gave them my opinion.” Don’t fool yourself. You have undercut the correct decision-maker. You have allowed an employee to play you against their manager in the exact same way that a child plays one parent against the other to get what they want.
Once again, the decision to ignore the rightful decision-maker and the decision they have made is disrespectful, undermines the other person, and engenders distrust. It also tells employees that nobody is really in charge; that no decision is a final decision. Employees will either flounder from lack of clear direction or consider the work environment a free-for-all. Performance, productivity, and quality will all go down.
The Right Decision: Never contradict another leader’s decision to an employee. If an employee raises a valid concern or question, go directly to the other leader and discuss it with them. Let that leader make the call as to whether to stick with the original decision or change it.
3. The Decision to Imply
The third bad decision is the decision to imply agreement with a decision someone else has made, but then fail to support it.
You know how this works: a decision is made on the leadership team, people smile and nod and affirm their alignment, and then … nothing. They don’t fulfill their responsibility for making the decision a success. They sit by passively or move at a snail’s pace. They gripe about the decision in conversations at the water cooler or in the break room.
In doing so, trust is destroyed. Call this what it is: hypocrisy. It is being two-faced … you turn the smiling face on the leader who makes the decision, then shrug your shoulders and ignore it as soon as you turn away. And remember, you are a leader: employees will follow your lead. If you don’t deliver on your stated commitments, they will take their cue from you and do (or not do) the same.
Since trust is the foundation of a good team and is central to the success of your business, implying your support for a decision and then failing to deliver that support is a blow at the foundation of everything you want to accomplish as a company. Is that really what you want?
The Right Decision: Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you have a problem with a decision, work through it. If you still don’t agree with a decision even after discussion and collaboration, you nevertheless have the responsibility as a leader to follow through on your end.
Make the Best Decisions in the Best Way
You want the best decisions for your business. To make sure that happens, never forget that the best decisions begin with the best decision-making process. On your leadership team, make the mutual decision to stay in your respective lanes, to uphold one another’s decisions, and to say what you mean and mean what you say. That will create the environment where you can all make the best decisions in the best way for the best outcomes for your business.