This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Smart Business Philadelphia magazine.
Wouldn’t it be great if every day we woke up and all was good in the world — no poor or mediocre operating results, no people issues, no customer or supplier issues, no worries.
Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in today. The most successful companies and their leaders have one thing in common — they are effective in dealing with difficult decisions that can have profound results.
"Many people can identify what should be done, but not everyone is courageous enough to act," says Stephen W. Christian, a director at Kreischer Miller.
Smart Business spoke with Christian about the obstacles to dealing with troubling issues and a path toward more effectively resolving them.
What are some of the toughest decisions facing executives?
Without a doubt, people issues are most prevalent. Examples include investing in strategic hires, counseling poor performers and retooling the organization chart. Other areas that often result in decision paralysis include investing in equipment or a physical plant, exiting or entering geographic regions, and walking away from a customer or service line.
Why is it important to quickly and effectively deal with tough decisions?
Decisions are required every day, some routine and some critical. Managers make routine decisions, but leaders make the critical ones. Effectively tackling performance and strategic issues guides our future and puts us on a path toward success. As leaders, we have people watching us and counting on us to do the right thing for the organization. We may be the owners or top executives, but our team members’ livelihoods depend on us effectively dealing with tough decisions.
What gets in the way of addressing difficult business issues?
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of reasons to ignore or postpone important actions. A day becomes a week, a week becomes a month, a month becomes a year, and before we know it, a decision we knew was necessary never takes place. Some reasons for this are lack of accountability, uncertainty about what we are trying to accomplish, fear of failure, worries about short-term consequences, failure to embrace the opportunity and concerns over what others might think.
What puts executives in the best position to make timely and effective decisions regarding complex and difficult matters?
Successful leaders utilize a variety of techniques to ensure they resolve difficult decisions. These techniques include defining the discrete decision at hand — focusing on the issue, not all the noise surrounding the matter; outlining the opportunities arising from the action; and defining the costs, both monetary and process change related.
From there, a plan of action is determined and commitment to a time frame is established. Along the way, seek the counsel of those whose judgments you trust to validate the plan and remind yourself that the goal is to advance the cause of the organization. There are no risk free, perfect answers.
Can you read a book to become a bet ter decision-maker?
What you can read in a book are techniques to overcome obstacles and reinforcement of the importance of making effective decisions. The ability to actually effectuate what you know should be done comes from your inner being. Remind yourself that successful companies are led by people who identify critical issues, take risks, are decisive and accept responsibility. Action is what it is all about.
The world is full of people who understand what the issues are. Not all of them have the skill to determine the solution to a problem, and even fewer have the ability to effect and sustain change. ●