I was talking with a friend the other day who is the director of a small foundation. In the course of our conversation she said that the best career advice she had ever been given was simply to be decisive. She said that, particularly as a woman, making quick decisions instead of dragging them out gave her a reputation as a tough boss but also allowed her to succeed in her field. The conversation made me wonder where the line was between being decisive and being seen as somebody who doesn’t take input or think things through.
There is certainly something to say for being decisive. Some of the most frustrating workplaces I have encountered are those where every decision is wrapped in red tape and requires approval from every department. The lack of decisive management leaves employees feeling like they are in limbo and that they work somewhere where nothing ever happens.
On the other hand, when the leadership at an organization is too quick to jump into decisions, it makes employees feel like their voices are not heard and that the organization is inflexible or incapable of reflection.
Looking for input and being decisive are not mutually exclusive. But doing both requires managers to be clear about the input they are requesting and to be able to process that input and still make a decision without being caught in the morass of differing opinions. In addition, if they look for input, they do not necessarily need to take all of the advice, but, they do need to make clear why they decided a certain way, particularly if this decision was counter to what the employees suggested.
Here are a few points that can help to combine being decisive and being open to suggestion:
- Consult with Focus. Let people know you value their perspectives on an issue and that you need a response today.
- Leave Technical Details to the Technicians. If something needs a deep analysis, consult with those with the necessary expertise either inside or outside of the organization.
- Acknowledge Contributions. Let people know that you’ve heard them. Don’t assume that people take it granted that you’re listening closely.