I just noticed Joshua Allen's “Decision-Making Skills“ post, and it really hit home with me.
One’s ability to make decisions, not only based on facts but also faith, is – I think – the number one differentiating factor between a fair leader and a great one. A huge driver of this ability is being able to trust your team, making constant assessments of the environment and available data, and setting a convincing vision and direction based on said input. Project managers and program managers, technical leads, executive officers, board members… all of these positions require solid decision making ability under pressure and difficult circumstances. I firmly believe that, while possessing bad decision making skills is a handicap, the inability to make a decision and confidently stand behind it is worse. Unfortunately, I see this quite a bit…
My tenure with a real, full-fledged BigCorp started off fairly rocky and took some time to level out comfortably. I made the jump from a tiny, entrepreneurial and individual focused environment into one which is very process-oriented and team focused. I struggled with the transition at first, and had an extremely difficult time figuring out where I stood in the “food chain,” in particular what I was empowered to decide. My years as the big fish in a little pond had cut out a very rigid outline which perfectly identified my domain of decision making responsibilities. When I moved into an environment in which decision making was more distributed, I was initially unable to step up, make decisions, and lead effectively.
After observing the culture and leadership at BigCorp, it finally hit me: just do it, damnit. In a fast paced and rapidly changing environment, nobody is going to whap you upside the head and tell you to make a decision. And likewise, you’re never going to have enough hard data to perfectly quantify would be decisions. So many people in leadership roles have a difficult time with this; they either want to understand the whole picture in minute detail, don’t trust their team members completely, or a combination of the two. As I alluded to earlier, paralysis is worse than making bad decisions.
When one is able to make this realization, and begin to make solid decisions and execute convincingly, responsibility seems to flow in your direction. I still have a long way to go, but understanding the importance is a step in the right direction.