Strong leadership skills are widely acknowledged as vital tools in providing companies with a competitive edge in today’s business environment. Quinton Douman, MD of 212 Business Consulting, explains that if you are a leader – be it of a franchised business, a global corporation, a family or a country – it’s always decision time.
The role of leadership, by definition, means that the weight of decisions falls onto your shoulders. Should your business purchase more stock despite a downturn in demand? Can you really afford to send your daughter on that school trip? Should you be making that particular amendment to this specific charter?
The art of decision-making doesn’t have to be a continuous cycle of “what ifs”; when it comes down to the core of any matter, there are three questions that need to be answered before you can identify the wisest course of action:
- What should start?
- What should continue?
- What should stop?
The quality of your decisions as a leader is predicated by the quality of your diagnosis. The answers to these questions are what you need to put your time and effort into defining.
Let’s use a small sales team as an example. The leader notices that the performance of the sales team is down, so she immediately schedules a team-building event and hires a motivational speaker, and then spends money on good food and a great DJ.
Everyone is happier than they were a day before, but the reality is that a lack of motivation wasn’t the true cause of the issue. Even though the short term morale will be significantly better, the problem of poor performance will probably not be solved.
While some people in the sales team may need motivation, team building could work for them, while others may lack resources, or the knowledge or skill to perform at an optimum level. Some may be falling foul of a flawed sales process that has been systematically breaking down productivity over many years.
From this example, we can see that, before making any decision, the first question should not be “what do we do?” but rather “what do we know?”.
In order to accurately define the problem and, therefore, the solutions, the leader must ask questions about the past, the present and the future. This may seem like an unnecessary effort, but without a good understanding of every lever, the quality of the decision will be compromised.
Think about something as simplistic as going through a menu at a restaurant; the people who are clear about what they value and what their lifestyle goals are don’t spend much time looking at the menu because they have already made clear decisions and formulated values that dictate what they will or won’t allow into their bodies.
For a leader who is making decisions on behalf of a big organisation, or on behalf of the shareholders who he is accountable to, or on behalf of a country that he serves (having a comprehensive decision-making framework is non-negotiable).
Even in times of uncertainty, great leaders have to be decisive. By using the tools outlined above, they can become strong and resolute leaders by really delving into the heart of any issue, then using their own personal vision and values to lead them to the right path.