As leaders there are many traps we can fall into with regards to our decision making.
For instance, there have been many leaders who are told about an issue with an employee who rush to judgement and make a poor decision based on a small fraction of the truth. The resulting effects have led to terminations that were unfounded, jeopardizing both the employee’s career and the reputation (and potential lawsuit) to the organization and leader as well.
Sometimes leaders make a hasty decision to go forward on an initiative with little research to back it up. I’ve seen small start-ups open and close within a short time frame because they assumed everyone would love their product or service and they had little knowledge of the industry and reception in the marketplace.
Other leaders have made grave errors in product development (such as New Coke in the 1980s) that greatly diminished market share and resulted in wasted expenditures and lost revenue, which in truth never gets recovered.
Conversely there are leaders who quickly decide against a course of action as they don’t believe in the merits of the consumer data, emerging technology or other industry shifting indicators. They make a quick default decision (usually as a safety net) that ultimately costs their companies in the long run.
For any decision, whether in strategic scaling, R&D, employee management or daily operations, the following framework will challenge all leaders make better decisions. It helps with snap decision needed to be made quickly or urgently as well as those that are long-term strategies.
Pause. Stopping to give attention to the decision to be made ahead is always the most important step. If a leader makes knee-jerk decisions based on their years of experience or taking on the perceived urgency of a matter they fall into the trap of not processing the entirety of the situation. Lifeguards at the local pool will always take a moment to scan the area before deciding how to help the struggling swimmer. Pausing can be a few seconds or a longer period, but it’s essential to stop before going forward.
Ponder. Call it processing, call it thinking. To properly ponder the decision to be made, you need to consider all aspects, including those that haven’t brought to the table yet. An employee issue may be a problem with their boss and not the employee per se. An accident investigation may have other factors contributing that weren’t preventable. A change to return policies to prevent loss might actually have a negative impact to your customer experience. Consider all the necessary variables that have brought this to the present decision, and how those variables – including all people impacted – will be affected by the decision in the short and long-term future. And most importantly, get others involved in the thinking process. Many leaders fail because of their own biases here especially when the issue can be a reflection of their leadership style. Counsel with others in varying levels and views on the team to ensure as many opinions as possible are considered.
Plan. This is where you develop your approach to the decision. Sometimes this can be accomplished in tandem with pondering, but often best to be finalized after all the data is gathered. Some leaders write out their plan to help better understand the situation. Consider all the positive impacts as well as the challenges and how you pan to navigate them as they unfold. Mind mapping and decision trees can be helpful in this stage. Involve those you counselled with when pondering as well as those who will be impacted as well.
Proceed. This is the execution of the decision. Making sure your product roll-out is promoted with a consistent message. Handling the employee situation with integrity and empathy. Making the bug fix on your app or website be seamless and continue to watch the impact of the new code. Getting feedback from your staff as well as your customers to ensure the plan is going smoothly can help make any needed course correction or adjustments that couldn’t be foreseen. The proceed phase is the execution and follow through of your decision to ensure is continues to be the right one.
Stop, Think. Map it out. Then go forward. Making these phases an intuitive reflex in your leadership will go a long way to ensure consistent, thoughtful – and even ethical – decisions that will create better results in any situation.
Last week my schedule had me arriving home in the evening. I didn’t want to take the time to cook dinner as I had much to do that night, so I ordered dinner from a local pizza place. In and out in under 2 minutes, I got home and ate while I prepared to get work done that night.
Only I got nothing done. My dinner made me feel lethargic and horrible the rest of the evening.
That was the trade-off of cooking healthy at home versus eating something quicker and not as good for me in the name of “easy”.
Business owners, busy people, young mobile adults – all of us want the easy button.
In our automated world easy has become easier, but not necessarily cost-free.
We forego face to face relationships in lieu of texting and emails. Context goes out the window, as does a true understanding of the person you are communicating with.
We want to automate reporting but then are incapable of knowing the numbers and how they’re derived.
We hear that someone from another company will support our onboarding or help us with a new project, and we defer to them to do it all. With no skin in the game, we have no working knowledge of the system or tool we’ve been set up with. The cost to use it doesn’t save us any money, we say. But that’s because we wanted easy and did not follow through with effort on our own end.
We sign on for third-party companies to process orders, deliver goods and manage data for us. But we give up the last mile of customer experience, the IP of our customer’s information and ultimately our brand. We’re not vertically integrated because it’s not easy.
I love tech and the benefits to our lives. When we use it to enrich what we do, it does make living nicer. But when the trade-off for easy costs us, we should reconsider why we’re going for easy.
Weigh the cost of easy. If it means you don’t have to do a single thing, it’s most likely going to leave you with a bad feeling in your stomach. It might be easy going down, but hard to digest when you give up getting ahead.
Many organizations across most industries will tell you that good talent is hard to come by. While it is agreed upon that attracting quality people is a challenge these days, there are ways to attract and retain good employees that will benefit your company.
Many companies such as Chick-Fil-A, Under Armor, and Adobe have found that hiring top talent is key, but that retaining talent is just as vital.
While there are many methods to keep good employees, and no one specific way will match up well for every company, here are some of the most common ways that good leaders keep great talent.
- Hire for culture fit. Companies that match candidates to the essentials of their culture do not struggle as much with performance. By merging people and culture, they assure that side issues that derail from the core tenants of their mission are minimized and that staff are engaged because they believe in what the company believes. This is an essential platform from Chris Edmond’s consulting and his book The Culture Engine.
- Hire for behavior fit. While skills are essential, behavior rules over all. The best and brightest engineer may be a toxin within your company. How people interact within themselves and with others will dictate how they affect other good employees, and customers. Look deeper beyond skills for behaviors that meet your company goals. Chris LoCurto recently had a podcast based on this principle.
- Hire for willingness. An employee willing to adopt to the vision and where it takes them will be more effective than someone onboard who does things their own way. Change is a necessity today, and those who are willing to change and adapt will be the strength of your organization. If not, they need to be cut loose, as outlined in keynotes form Gary Vaynerchuck and in Mark Miller’s book Chess Not Checkers.
- Hire for complementary behaviors. You’ve trained and developed a good team. Now you have that all-star candidate with the best skills you’ve ever seen, and are ready to hire them. Yet you see that their personality and behaviors will clash with the team dynamic already in place. The best skills cannot take priority over behaviors that threaten to dilute an already engaged team. Disruption can be beneficial, but disrupting your culture with someone who is not aligned from the outset is a huge mistake.
- Train correctly. A recent study shows that 74% of employees feel that company training to reach their full potential is lacking. This means to have competency in how to do their jobs, not just looking for the next level. Employee behavior models show that when employees don’t have a need filled, they seek it elsewhere. By giving them the full attention for them to be successful – according to their standards, not yours – you will find their tenure to increase over time.
- Train – All the time. Ongoing training not only retains talent, it attracts it as well. Training is not a “I showed you so you should know it and do it” mentality, but a culture of teaching, mentoring and continuous improvement. Yes it takes time, and commitment, but so does any worthwhile relationship. Employees aren’t widgets to make and plug into a process, they are people wanting investment and validation. A leader who realizes this priority will have a high performing team that is fully engaged and committed.
- Set CLEAR expectations. Most leaders give a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex or Ambiguous) ask on what they want, whether ongoing behaviors or simple tasks. It is so easy to fall into this trap, particularly when a leader has so many things on her or his plate. If your employee doesn’t perform to your expectations, ask and make sure they understood, and if they are not on the same page, rephrase simply and clearly. Then ensure you you walk away with the same clarity. Many employees get more frustrated when their leader states a certain expectation then changes it, when their manager failed to remember what was said.
- Set guardrails. Guardrails are not designed to be punitive, they’re designed to keep good employees from failing, or at least minimizing mistakes. Netflix shows a great example of doing with with their engineers, allowing them to fix issues faster and with less risk, and without fear. Guardrails help further establish a culture of elevating your staff, and keeping them moving forward.
- Create sandboxes. Guardrails keep employees from being derailed, and sandboxes allow for innovation to flourish and skills to stand out. Sandbox culture allows an “open play style” in which employees can do whatever as long as the boundaries company culture and ethics are established. In this environment an employee can find new solutions, approaches and even skills they may not have previously realized. The basis for this stems from HP and 3M’s history of innovation from their employees.
- Challenge them. Getting your people out of their comfort zone is only part of the process. Finding new and creative ways to develop their potential, reward effort and learn from success and failures will deepen their skills and create a broader foundation for engagement. Years ago I took a young and unorganized manager and gave him responsibility over all the restaurant marketing and promotional materials we got from corporate. After a few promotions of struggle, he became a solid planner and executed the timing nicely. And this translated through the rest of his job as well. Challenges will grow your people if done properly.
- Praise them. Passe, you say? No ROI? A study from Harvard Business School says otherwise. Increased self-direction, feeling valued and less as a commoditized resource are what drives employee retention, and praise is a key factor, this study finds. All it takes is being self-aware, others-aware … and committed to your people.
- Dig for gold, not dirt. Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak says that successful leaders accept people while fault finders actually reject people. Andrew Carnegie believed that people “are developed the same way gold is mined. Several tons of dirt must be moved to get an ounce of gold. But you don’t go into the mine looking for dirt, you go in looking for gold.” Accepting people as gold needing to be mined and polished show their worth to you their employer.
- Treat them honestly and transparently. I/O At Work had a unique perspective that hypocritical leadership – displaying contrary leadership behavior or undermining efforts – is a type of social injustice in the workplace that results in employee turnover. A desire for authentic, genuine leaders with integrity and emotional intelligence rates high on most every employee engagement study.
- Vision, Value, Voice. Michael Lee Stallard’s book Connection Culture details how the best organizations give their employees vision, value and voice to turn employees into committed members of your organization. Years of research and case studies through business, healthcare organizations, rock bands and universities show the validity of giving your people these 3 V’s to increase their commitment to your organization and keep culture moving forward.
Good talent is out there. How you attract and retain that talent is entirely up to you. Use these strategies to convert your employees into raving fans.