How Great Leaders Make Big Decisions

One Way street signs

We all make bad decisions. Trust me, even the most level-headed exceptional leaders not only have made poor decisions in their career, but they will make them in the future. What matters when it comes to decision-making isn’t necessarily the outcome; it’s having a method or strategy to rely on before making significant decisions that matters most.  

Before you jump on my case in the comments, please let me explain by saying the outcome isn’t always the most important factor. In the vast majority of cases, we have little control over the final result, but what we do have control over is the process and effort we put in that produces the outcome. So the more significant the decision, the better our decision-making method should be.  

Take Paul, the CEO of a medium-sized business. When company growth sputtered, he began exploring the possibility of acquiring another company to fuel future growth. In one of our coaching conversations, he said, “I am going to go with my gut on this decision and move forward with the acquisition.” Since he didn’t have prior knowledge or experience in making acquisitions, I found it strange to rely on his gut.

So I passed along some wisdom to help him think differently since it affected so many people.  

“Great leaders don’t stop at just communicating the final decision; they articulate how and why they got to the final decision to gain maximum buy-in from the team.”

See, by definition, a decision is a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. It comes from the Latin word, meaning “to cut off.” So in Paul’s case, if he couldn’t articulate how and why he reached the decision of acquiring another company to his management team or the employees at either company, the likelihood of its future success would be low. Because at the end of the day, it would be the people in both companies that would produce the results, not the decision itself. 

Proven Methods to Make Big Decisions

If you have a big decision, like taking a new job, buying a company, getting married, or hiring someone, run it through one of these simple methods to be more confident that you made the right decision.

Method 1: 3 Steps “Before You Decide”

Decisions come in all different sizes. Some research suggests we make as many as 35,000 decisions every day. Matt Confer of Abilitie has spent a significant amount of time and energy studying what organizational leaders do right and wrong when making decisions. In a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast, Confer told me, “The best leaders get buy-in from above them and below them by sharing why they are making the decisions they are making.”

For any leader to describe “why” they are making a decision, Confer shared a 3 step method that leaders can use that enhances the way they come up with the final decision.  

  1. Challenge the Constraint – This is all about thinking outside of the box and not just solving the problem in the fastest way possible. This is a strategic step to think differently about the decision in front of you.  
  2. Embrace the Pre-Mortem – It’s human nature to decide or contemplate making a decision, and all one thinks about is envisioning success. While thinking positively about an outcome is never wrong, an essential question to embrace is, “If this decision fails, what are five ways it would fail miserably?” Thinking about how failure would happen will open up your eyes to problem areas that still need to be addressed. 
  3. Check the Basics – The more complex a decision, the more likely a small essential detail is missed, which can cause a big decision to fail. As the great Kobe Bryant used to say, “never get bored with the basics.”

Confer’s 3-step method of ” before you decide” has a whiteboard session written all over it to help make your significant decision. If done correctly, it will provide you with clarity about moving forward or put the brakes on a big decision.  

Method 2: The 40-70 Rule

In our virtual leadership workshops, I coach leaders to leverage Colin Powell’s 40-70 Rule when making a decision. If you aren’t familiar with the 40-70 Rule, Powell says, “Every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision.”  

If you decide with less than forty percent of the information, you are taking a wild guess, but if you wait until you have over 70% of the information, you are making it too late. 

If you have all the data, it’s no longer a decision; it’s a forgone conclusion.”

The art of this rule is using both your intuition, experience, expertise and also the priorities of short vs. long-term ramifications. Thus, the 40-70 Rule is a powerful strategy to get comfortable with making more intelligent decisions before they are needed most. 

Method 3: Remove the Emotion and Decide in the Morning

Not all decision-making methods have to be complicated. But just because it’s not complex doesn’t mean it’s easy. Many poor decisions have been made because of emotions and timing.

I am obsessed with Dr. Susan David’s quote: “Emotions are data, not directives. We get to choose who we want to be; our emotions don’t.” 

Science has shown that we make worse decisions when we are emotional and when we have decision fatigue. So instead of ignoring your emotions, embrace the uncomfortable pause, sleep on it, and then decide in the morning when you have lowered the feelings and have a fresh brain.  

Closing

If you happen to be like Paul in our opening story and you like making decisions by your gut, challenge yourself to articulate how and why you are making it. If you aren’t like Paul and you love every punch of data you can get before you make a decision, lean into the 40-70 rule or the “3 Steps Before You Decide.”

Regardless, all I ask is that you have the courage to make the decision and commit to it. Part of a leader’s job is to make significant decisions, and you are just the person to do it.

What methods do you use to make significant decisions?

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How the Best Leaders Navigate Office Politics

Business competition

For everyone in the United States, November 3rd was Election Day. It’s was day when we got the opportunity to exercise our right to vote for our country’s leaders. Many care deeply about this particular election (myself included). 

While talking about politics can get most people’s blood boiling, there’s another type of politics that deserve your attention — organizational politics or “office politics.”

Before you shrug off the idea or claim you don’t get involved in “office politics,” let’s define what the term means. Politics are the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups or other forms of power relations between individuals.  

There isn’t an organization in the world that doesn’t make decisions in groups or navigates power balance.  What I have learned in working with leaders in different sizes and types of organizations is that the best leaders not only recognize the politics in their organization, they are active participants in it. 

Great leaders are active participants in organizational politics.

Great leaders do this because they recognize that if they want to make positive change, have influence, and be a part of the solution, they must be active participants and not passive bystanders.

Don’t Ignore It; Learn it.

One of the most popular things I hear from people, “I ignore the politics in my organization; it’s not worth my time.”  I can absolutely understand this comment if their organization has more people jockeying for position than working to advance the company forward. However, this isn’t typical and even in organizations like this, ignoring politics isn’t the answer; learning it is.  After studying leaders who navigate office politics well, here are some best practices you can implement to ensure you aren’t ignoring your organizational politics.

1. Rely on Relationships

One of the biggest mistakes any politician makes is thinking they can do it all by themselves.  Many professionals make the same mistake.  Instead of relying on strong relationships, they “go rogue” and are blindsided when their initiatives are struck down or thrown out. Mark Sheilds said it well, “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals and organizations that you can rally around your cause, the better.”

Start early and never stop building strong relationships you can rely on.  As I wrote in Building the Best“Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.”  Build strong trust-filled relationships at every organizational level by being reliable, consistent, and helping others get what they want.  

If you are curious about the strength of a relationship in your organization, ask yourself this question, “Have I given my time or demonstrated my intentions through actions to this person?”  If the answer isn’t a resounding “yes!” it’s time to make a change with them. 

2. Build a Resume of Accomplishments for Influence

John Maxwell declared, “Leadership is influence.”  That’s not all leadership is, but I know you can’t lead without it.  Influence, by definition, is the power to have an important effect on someone or something.  The best way to gain influence is to build a resume based on actions and accomplishments.  

Too often, people assume that influence comes from how long you have been somewhere. While this might have been true in previous generations, it’s becoming less and less important today.  

Great modern leaders care more about your actions than your age.

The fastest path to influence is accomplishing meaningful things with others. When you play an integral part on a team that takes action, solves problems, and gets results, your influence skyrockets.  

3. Understand the Decision Making Process

Decision making is choosing between two or more courses of action. Some decisions are based on reason and others on intuition. Each organization has a decision-making process woven into the fabric of their culture. I have come to define them in two ways:

Centralized Authority:  These organizations make decisions in a slow, pragmatic, and hierarchical way. Centralized Authority decision making is common in highly regulated industries with significant financial or safety-related ramifications in most decisions.  

Dispersed Authority: These organizations make decisions in a quick, decisive, and shared way.  It’s common for team members to be empowered to “make decisions where the information is.”  This is common in entrepreneurial cultures or in technology companies where innovation rules the day. 

There are always exceptions to every rule, but in most situations, the better model is dispersed authority.  You might not be able to change the decision-making process in your organization, but you should be able to answer these questions:  

Who are the key people?  

What are those people’s priorities? 

What do they value most?  

Once you can answer these questions, you can align your initiatives and influence to get things accomplished.

4. Be Patient

I learned early in my career, “patience is a virtue.”  This week Gary Vaynerchuk said, “patience is the core ingredient of success for most people.”  Most people don’t have patience, and instead expect to build relationships, have influence, and make decisions in days, not years.  

The leaders who navigate office politics the best are the ones who are patient and do the right thing day in and day out.  So do your best to stay patient while being an active participant in your office politics.  

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

The Daily Challenges Leaders Must Overcome to Be Successful

challenge

As he verbalized his most significant leadership challenge, it was apparent there wasn’t a simple solution.  

“Our company looks at its leaders as player-coaches, so I am responsible for my results and the results of my team. How do I balance driving business results with taking care of my people?” He continued, “When push comes to shove, I have to work on this account worth six figures instead of training the new hire on my team who is struggling. So what do I do, let her fail, or choose the revenue?”

What this high-potential front line manager described is a macro challenge faced daily by not just him many leaders. The reality of the situation is that he didn’t have to choose one or the other. He had to commit to both. As a leader, he is responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.

“Leaders aren’t responsible for the results. Leaders are responsible for the people who are responsible for the results.” Simon Sinek

As an individual contributor to the team, his results are his responsibility. Thus making the balance of time and energy between both responsibilities a key to his success. 

This common, yet complex challenge got me thinking about the more extensive balancing acts leaders face every day. These are the three significant challenges leaders face daily:

Metrics vs. People

Recently it was reported that Salesforce cut 1,000 jobs while the stock surged after an incredible earning report. Even though a spokesperson for the company said, “We’re reallocating resources to position the company for continued growth,” it provides evidence to support the delicate balance between metrics and people. 

I have written before; there’s a substantial difference between the title of “manager” and the actions of a leader; one is vastly more important than the other in today’s business environment. However, most job responsibilities for people in positions of leadership are related to reporting metrics and sending performance reports. While there is nothing wrong with the metrics, many tasks eventually will be automated and replaced by technology.

The more leaders lean into focusing on their people and their daily habits, behaviors, and choices, the better the results will be. 

Love vs. Discipline

The best leaders today use a style of leadership, often referred to as servant leadership. Author Pat Lencioni said it well, “We shouldn’t call it servant leadership anymore; we should just call it leadership.”

While Lencioni is 100% correct, leaders also need a methodology to lead this way. In our research, we’ve studied leaders who do this well. The common thread was their ability to balance high levels of love and discipline in the way they lead.  

While some may shy away from using the word love in the workplace, I assure you it’s in no way referring to any sort of HR violation. Instead, I define love in Building the Best as “to contribute to someone’s long-term success and well being.” 

Researchers at the University of Berkley studied what motivates productivity in professionals. They found when people felt recognized for the work they did, they were 23% more effective and productive. But what’s even more astonishing is that when people felt valued and cared for, their productivity and effectiveness experienced a 43% increase. While recognition is essential, there was an additional 20% jump by in performance by showing your people you care or love them. 

But balance is essential. Therefore, if you have love, you must also have its counterpart, discipline. In Building the Best, I defined discipline as “to promote standards in order for an individual to choose to be at his or her best.” This means setting high standards and holding others accountable for meeting and exceeding those standards. 

Achieving a balance of love and discipline in a servant leadership approach is not an easy task. The best leaders not only embrace the challenge, but they excel at it giving their team-high levels of both. 

Short vs. Long-Term Decision Making

Often short-term and long-term views can contradict each other, while other times, they are in direct alignment.  

In today’s short term business cycle, most leaders are prioritizing the short-term over the long-term, and who can blame them. The pressure from executive teams, investors, and even their bosses lends itself to “get results now, and we will deal with the future later.” 

I coach leaders to leverage Colin Powell’s 40-70 Rule when making a tough decision, then running it through both the short and long-term ramifications. If you aren’t familiar with the 40-70 rule, Powell says, “every time you face a tough decision, you should have no less than forty percent and no more than seventy percent of the information you need to make the decision.”  

This makes so much sense because if you are making a decision with less than forty percent of the information, you are taking a wild guess but if you wait until you have over 70% of the information, you are making it too late. The art of this rule is using both your intuition, experience, expertise, and also the priorities of short vs. long term ramifications. 

Closing

I told the leader in the LearnLoft Leader Program, “if leadership were easy, everyone would do.” He is capable of navigating these challenges and so are you.

You have chosen to be a leader and to embrace the responsibilities that come with the territory. Your people are counting on you to rise to the challenge.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping improve the performance of struggling managers. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of  Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

How to Lose the Respect of Your Team in One Simple Step

Most leaders put in the effort to earn respect, while others naively rely on their title to provide it. Regardless of the way it is gained, without respect, you can’t lead. At best, you can manage others but forget the idea of getting the best out of a team. This is why the second leadership principle in Building the Best is: Without strong relationships, you can’t lead.  

Even the thought of losing the respect of someone or something a leader cares about can cause a pit in their stomach to form.  Research suggests that overall happiness in life is more related to how much you are respected and admired by those around you, not to the status that comes from the amount of money you make or have.

Commanding and Demanding Respect Isn’t The Answer.

While the position a leader is in often comes with built-in respect, it can’t and won’t sustain respect for an extended period. Respect is earned, and it’s earned through a lot of hard work and correct decision making. As Paulo Coelho said, “Respect is for those who deserve it, not for those who demand it.”

Once respect is lost, gaining it back is one of the hardest things a leader can do. Leaders lose the respect of their people for all different kinds of reasons. Often, it’s lost for a big intentional decision that is glaringly selfish. 

Through my experience working with leaders from all industries in a variety of positions, it’s most common that leaders lose respect not because of one of these big decisions, but because of a collection of subtle choices, often without awareness of their mistakes.  

Here are a few common examples:

  • Not standing up to someone or something that’s wrong
  • Treating team members differently based on personal relationships
  • Refusal to confront the bully on the team
  • Interrupting others while they are speaking
  • Physically being in a meeting but not being mentally present
  • Hearing but not actively listening to team members
  • Not keeping their word when they say they will do something

If you have been in a position of leadership for any length of time, you know your people are watching your every move and listening to the words that come out of your mouth. 

Take a good look at your actions. Are you guilty of any of these? We all make mistakes, but respect is lost when habits form, and people aren’t self-aware enough to recognize their pattern of behavior.  

Here’s how the best leaders cultivate a culture of respect on their team and you can too: 

Look beyond commonalities

It sounds almost foolish for me to have to write this given our current environment, but each person on a team is equal. They might not play the same role or contribute to the overall success of a team in the same way, but the moment team members start being treated differently is the moment your trust begins to erode.   

Your human nature will have you gravitating toward people who act like you, look like you, or that you get along with personally. While there is nothing wrong with this by itself, leaders tend to give special treatment, attention, and let mistakes slide for these people. All leaders are challenged to overcome different biases in order to have better respect-filled relationships across their team.  

If you want more respect in your culture, look beyond commonalities. Be consistent with the opportunities available and the accountability leveraged with each member of the team.  

Do what’s right, always

There are many critical questions leaders should not only ask themselves in their careers and have an answer for. One of the crucial questions you must ask yourself and be able to clearly answer is: Who do I want to be as a leader?  

It’s a deep question, but if you don’t have an answer for it, there is a good chance you don’t have boundaries of your character. This might not be a problem when everything is going well, but it becomes a problem when tough situations arise or decisions have to be made that are on the border of right and wrong.  

Questionable decisions start small. As an example, rarely does a criminal’s first offense start with robbing a bank. It starts small indiscretions and escalates over time. 

Since your people are watching, doing what is right under pressure will always be something that builds respect. Knowing who you want to become as a leader will help guide these tough decisions and do what’s right. I shared some ideas about making positive daily deposits to help you in a recent episode of the Follow My Lead Podcast.

Share the truth, even if it hurts

Many leaders struggle to share hard truths with their people out of fear of the reaction or the uncomfortable nature of the conversation. Regardless of the reason, sharing the truth is a powerful way to earn respect.

Sharing hard truths, while difficult, shows your people you care about the team and them enough to help them get better in the future. As I tell people in our virtual leadership workshops, if you have information that can help someone else improve and you don’t share it, you are only hurting them. 

The best part of getting into the habit of sharing the truth is your team will appreciate your courage and willingness to share it. The more you do it, the easier it becomes until it’s just part of your culture. 

Empower people to make decisions

As a leader, you are ultimately responsible for everything your team does. However, if you make all the decisions, your people won’t reach their full potential, and won’t achieve the level of success you desire.

Empowering your people to make decisions is a fast track to creating a culture of respect. Check out this story of a manager from Chick-fil-A, empowering her people to make decisions.

Closing

Remember, respect is earned and without it, you can’t lead. Heade this warning: it can also be eroded in an instant. Don’t take it for granted. 

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company making virtual training easy and effective. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. He is currently scheduling virtual workshops an keynotes. Learn more about the talks. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Why the Best Leaders Don’t Make All The Decisions

Man standing with forward direction arrow

One of the most critical elements of leadership is empowerment. Which means “to give control over another’s life and the authority to do something.” The best leaders know it’s their responsibility to allow other people to make decisions where the information is.

The hard part is knowing as the leader; you are ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in your team. However, if you make all the decisions, there is no way your people will reach their full potential, or your team will achieve the level of success you desire.

I hope this story from my experience at Chick-fil-A will help you think about how you are encouraging your people to make decisions on your team. If they aren’t ready to make the correct decisions, it time you think about coaching, mentoring, and developing them so they can.

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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company that exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. He is currently booking events and speaking engagements for 2020. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on Instagram @johngeades.

Powerful Habits that Change Managers into Great Leaders

The debate about the difference between a manager and leader has been settled. Without question, there is a difference in both definition and behavior.

Just to ensure we are on the same page, here are my favorite definitions of both in action form:

Management: The manipulation of others for your own success

Leadership: Serving and empowering the lives that have been entrusted to you

Unless you grew up in a place of worship or had really strong figures in your life that taught you about serving and empowering, you most likely default to management. Why? Because it’s what’s taught in high school, college and organizational leadership development programs. In many ways, our environment is teaching us to be managers, not leaders, but unfortunately, that’s not an excuse. Here are six habits that can help change managers into leaders.

1. Find a Purpose Beyond Money

While there is no question that money is important in life, one of the best ways to make a leap towards being a leader is to find a true purpose in your work beyond money. If the only reason you go to work is for money, your people will know and you will never make the leap to serve.

If this is an area you struggle in, pick up Simon Sinek’s new book Find Your Why when it comes out in September.

2. Decentralize Decision Making

Most people move into a position of management because they were good at their job. Typically their first actions are to solve all the worlds problems and be a major part in every decision facing the team. The problem is the people they are now leading are being treated as followers and have a sense of being in a subordinate position, thus creating more followers, not more leaders. As leadership expert David Marquet says, “followers have limited decision making authority and little incentive to give the utmost of their intellect, energy, and passion. Those who take orders usually run at half speed, underutilizing their imagination and initiative.”

The key here is to not only be ok with your people making decisions make it a core part of their job.

3. Give and Serve Outside of Work

I don’t mean to give financially, I mean give your time. Winston Churchill famously said “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Look for ways to volunteer in your community or start a support group. The point here is if you learn to give up your free time to serve those that you don’t know, you most certainly will begin to serve and empower those that you do at work.

4. Focus on Your Example

The old adage ‘do as I say, not as I do’ is an awful way to lead and a sure-fire way to erode trust with your team. Leading by example encompasses all your actions, from what time you show up at the office, how much vacation you take, what you wear, to the moral and ethical decisions you make both at work and home.

The choices you make every single day are watched and judged by others. Do your actions exemplify the way you want to be portrayed? One of the most important things you can remember is not allowing your title to effect a positive example you set for your team.

5. Thinking You Have to Be the Hero

Like most professionals, I met my biggest weakness early on. I thought I was the only person who could do things right, and I had to have my hand in every decision. Then someone told me,

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

It was exactly what I needed to hear. From then on, I knew I didn’t have to be the hero. Now, I surround myself with talented people, ask for help, give more responsibility, and try to listen more than I talk.

6. Stop Making Excuses

If you habitually struggle with saying or thinking on a regular basis “There is never enough hours in the day” or “this quarter is so important,” stop and reflect on what you are saying. Every quarter is important and every day is important but it shouldn’t for a minute stop you from thinking critically about how you are leading other people.

I don’t care what the circumstance eliminate your excuses, take responsibility and put in the work.

The Windshield Mentality

No matter if you are a manager or a leader, I want you to begin embracing the windshield mentality. All the windshield mentality is, is thinking about what’s ahead of you instead of behind you. Start thinking and planning how you are going to implement these habits moving forward and never look back!

A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft and host of the Follow My Lead Podcast. He is also the author of F.M.L. Standing Out & Being a Leader, and is passionate about the development of modern professionals. Follow him on instagram @johngeades.