To operate a successful business, or even division within a business, there needs to be a pragmatic approach to solving problems. It should be a dispassionate look at problem situations with the desired outcome being the correct “business decision” for the company.
“It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.” Jim Rohn
As a leader making these decisions you will invariably be faced with tough calls to make, ambiguous circumstances that can muddy the waters and the need to make unpopular decisions. In those cases you need to do the best that you can, understanding that you can’t please everyone.
“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” Bill Cosby.
As a business owner who has faced many of these decisions over the years I think I can provide some guidance based on experience. Here are some thoughts:
- The worst thing that you can do is to avoid making the decision!
- It is OK to consciously choose not to change things, after considering the facts.
- You will not always be right.
- Business decisions must always be fact based, not emotional decisions. Don’t get caught up in the emotions.
- Be decisive in your actions… don’t let the problems hang around.
- Communicate as much as possible with people, but at the end of the day most people are smart enough to know “that decision” was coming, even if they don’t like it.
- It is normal to feel bad about decisions that affect people, but if your decisions are based on facts, and in the best interests of the company then you have done your job.
- It is difficult to remove emotion from situations when you are emotionally involved. There are good reasons why leaders should not have close personal friendships with people that work for them.
- I find that it helps to have partners who I can talk to before during and after the tough decisions. For some leaders there are no peers within the company, so finding an outlet is important. Peer groups like YPO can help.
- At the end of the day we are at work to work, and the focus needs to be the success of the business or everyone suffers. Leaders are expected to make reasoned, timely business decisions. They are not in their role to win a popularity contest.
“One rarely has 100% of the information needed for a good decision no matter how much one spends or how long one waits.” Robert K. Greenleaf
The most difficult decisions will always affect people, their livelihood, their career, their success within the company or not. When business decisions do affect people negatively then leaders should accept some responsibility, act with compassion and treat people as fairly as possible. If you are unfair, unreasonable or insensitive in your decision making there is likely to be a ripple effect which should be avoided where possible.