Are you frequently interrupted by employees needing a decision on something? Do you ever wish they could make the right decision on their own? Ever tried delegating, and someone went charging forward on a hair-brained, flat out bad idea so you ended up taking the decision-making back? Or, maybe you’ve had employees continually try to “sell” you on really risky projects or ideas.
If you said yes to any of the above, you are not alone. Most CEOs can identify with at least one if not all of those situations. And this may be despite great leadership training. I’m a reasonably well-read and trained student of leadership, and was taken pleasantly by total surprise at our last CEO Exchange when a speaker gave myself and my room full of petro CEOs the missing link in the leadership decision puzzle.
But first, let me give you a little back ground. I experience great joy from doing one-on-one Executive coaching with marketers of all sizes and degrees of success through our M-Power™ program. Often during these power sessions, owners express frustration with employees. For example, almost everyone has a chronic complainer, despite predominantly great teams.
Any time a new CEO client starts expressing frustration about one of their complainer employees, I typically recommend my “Three Solutions” strategy–the CEO asks the complainer to come up with three solutions to solve what they are complaining about. With repetition, the thorn-in-the-side complainer becomes a solution provider — exactly what every CEO wants.
My “Three Solutions Method” typically alleviates most of the complaining noise, but sometimes a CEO reported back that his team members brought him three options, and… are three were terrible! At that point he found himself still stuck with an employee that just wasn’t getting it. And even worse, the employee was giving him really hard sells on three terrible ideas.
What I learned from our expert is when this happens, and you are in the middle of listening to the hard sell, the natural reaction is to begin pointing out all the risk in the ideas or why the idea (and maybe all three!) won’t work. Now even though the CEO is simply pointing out risks, he is perceived as the jerk who won’t approve ideas. Taken to extreme, the ideas stop flowing which is not the intent. What you and I and every CEO wants is quality ideas.
At one of our CEO Exchange events, I gained the one little piece I was missing. And, it’s so simple! As our guest speaker Larry Linne, author of Make the Noise Go Away, the Power of an Effective Second in Command, revealed this leadership secret, I and all the attendees had an “ah-ha light-bulb-on” moment!
The tried and true method of asking for multiple solutions is still the right path. Only what there was one more missing step – you ask your employee to present both the positive and negative consequences of each option. There you have it – the secret – they must give you the pros and cons!
With this missing piece of the puzzle, not only to you get better ideas, but you teach your team how to identify and weigh out risks to make better decisions. This is likely how you think naturally as a leader. Using this missing step, you’ve simply articulated your own risk-weighing decision methods into a joint conversation. Brilliant!
When you start using this method of pros and cons and multiple solutions, don’t expect perfection. The minuses will likely be a little soft and the pluses inflated, but even so, you will have the foundation for further discussion, allowing your direct reports to know how you think and make decisions.
After you’ve had discussion and feel they’ve “got it”, ask them which option they recommend and why. This empowers them to actually make the first move instead of you. You may disagree with their choice and that’s OK.
At times, if the risk is reasonably low, you may want to allow them to try their own way, just to fully experience a negative consequence they likely underplayed. The experience will teach them to be more cautious with subsequent decisions. Other times, you may decide to choose an option that isn’t their number one, but with plenty of reasoning on your whys.
With perseverance to this multi-option, pros and cons presentation process, you will build up good decision-making in your direct reports that over time, will allow you to fully trust their judgment, 100% of the time. And do you know what that means? You are finally freed from the day-to-day minor minutia and get to direct your time, talent, energy and passion to the things you truly love in your business. And you’ll have the time for your family and hobbies!
If you’d like to learn more about the high quality education specifically for the Petro industry, please visit my main website at www.askmeridian.com.
I wish tremendous success and empowered employees making thoughtful, great decisions without your input!