Making Leadership Decisions Without Blinders
Making Leadership Decisions Without Blinders
Chance favors only the prepared mind. – Louis Pasteur
Making decisions as a leader means relying on equal parts data and gut instinct.
Failing decisions are rarely the fault of poor cognitive ability, but rather because of a poor process to reaching decisions. Gathering and disseminating the information that allows for informed decisions needs to be done with skill.
All too often decision makers follow instinct, experience, and ego rather than taking the time to involve others who could assist in a more effective and sound decision.
One of the more interesting phenomena in decision making, and the justification of our selections, is choice blindness. In scientific study Social Scientist Peter Johansson presented two choices in which they showed male and female participants different female faces on cards. The participants were then asked to make a decision as to which face was more attractive. Sounds simple so far, but here is the twist:
They were then handed a card and asked to justify their decision. The study split between handing participants the card that they chose, and handing them the card that they didn’t choose – instead handing them the less attractive face.
Only 13% of study participants picked up on the switch. And the remaining 87% were as passionate in justifying their choices as those who were defending their actual choice. The study illustrates far more than the simple matter of what types of people we think we’re attracted to. It shows that once decisions have been made, especially those decisions that are made at-a-glance with little information, that we’re willing to justify a choice regardless of whether it is right or wrong. Sound familiar?
As we move into the future into changing times our decisions will become more complex. Our need for sound decision making skills, and self awareness, will become paramount in making the kinds of choices we can justify without guessing. Setting in place proper methods of information gathering will provide a backbone of effectiveness for you decision making that will carry over into every facet of your life.
The time for making better decisions is now. Here are some tips on how to improve, and what to avoid. Make sure you are part of the 13% who sees the switch, rather than joining the 87% who will need to try to justify their mistakes.
- Accept What You Don’t Know & Welcome Change
Assumption of knowledge is a dangerous thing, unfortunately it’s also something that grows the longer a person is in service of a business. As years go by we simply assume that we accumulated all the answers and know what we need to know. Research shows that when it comes to organizational change it is consistently the longer term employees who prefer the status quo and resist change – even when acknowledging that change is necessary.
- Become an Informational Interviewer
In order to make the best decisions you’ve got to ask the right questions. Kids 'R' Us found this out the hard way when they expanded their operation into the growing economy of Puerto Rico. At a glance the demographic information in front of them, a flowering birth rate and solid family structure. However, they were alarmed when they noticed almost immediately that they were losing money. Their rush to the marketplace without a full understanding of it cost them substantially. They never asked whether or not school children in Puerto Rico were required to wear uniforms to school.
- Read the Signs or You’ll Miss Your Turn
As we saw in the Johansson study, we’ve got to conquer our ego and see the big picture. It can be hard to give up a decision you’ve made without justifying why you’ve made it. Decision makers, like all humans, have biases and favorites but when making choices that effect the financial well being of an organization you need to be aware of your own ego and how to keep your eyes on the road without “falling in love” with an option and getting pride involved in the outcome.
- Avoid Avoiding Good Decisions
Making sound decisions takes time, and sometimes money. Sometimes we’re pressed for decisions, or simply don’t want to assign resources to the process of making the best decision possible. Two old axioms address this directly. “You get what you pay for.” And “Garbage in, Garbage out”. Trying to save money, or avoiding the parts of decision making that feel like work, will require us to get lucky. As Clint Eastwood might say “So tell me, do you feel lucky…?”
- Don’t Rely on The Success of Others
This is decision making at its laziest. Rarely can a company simply reproduce the success of another by playing copycat. Trends change quickly. Your situations and resources are different than theirs, and while using information that you gather from the success and failure of others can be beneficial it should never be the sole factor. This not only leads to under-informed decisions, but also you’re your company squarely in the role of industry follower rather than industry leader.
- Take Off Your Blinders
Your company s is filled with information. Good information. However you need to move beyond your company secrets, your own employee’s opinions, and your already-satisfied customers when making decisions. It’s comforting to only ask those who will provide the responses we’re hoping to hear, but differing opinions shoudn’t be avoided – they should be sought out and explored. When deciding new paths you’ll get equal or great value in asking a customer you’ve lost to one you’ve kept.
- Be Aware of the Clock
Some personality types charge headlong into decisions, accepting that they may be wrong and need to retool. Others procrastinate, and avoid the finality of making a decision that may or may not be wrong. If you are among the latter you need to set some parameters and guidelines on when a decision is due. Keep from inviting “too many chefs to the kitchen”. Acknowledge and accept that even with a full effort including research, surveys, and late nights pouring over data that you may be wrong.