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Your Indecision Is Costing Too Much! 8 Proven Behaviors To Help You Be More Decisiveby Zenger Folkman September 23, 2017

 As the pace of change increases, the ability of leaders to make high-quality decisions quickly and accurately is a critical leadership capability. One might think with the influx of information available to us today that good decisions would be easy to make. In many ways, a tyranny of choice occurs when leaders have access to so much information and so many potential choices: decisions become more difficult to make. Bad decisions can put organizations in jeopardy for obvious reasons, but delayed decisions can also hurt by losing competitive advantage.  Organizations need leaders who can quickly look at the facts, discuss options, and make a decision. While it seems simple, it is not as clear what skills are needed to enable leaders to develop this skill.To better understand decisiveness, I looked at data from 589 leaders. Each was given feedback on their ability to be decisive and make high quality decisions, and were evaluated using 360-degree feedback collected from their manager, peers, direct reports, and others with whom they worked.  The following four behaviors were used to evaluate their decisiveness:

• Makes decisions and continually moves forward

• Keeps decisions moving forward in an environment of uncertainty

• Balances reflection with decisiveness

• Makes good decisions based on a mixture of analysis, wisdom, experience, and judgment

To examine the impact of decisiveness on a leader’s perceived effectiveness, we first looked at independent potential ratings for the leaders as identified by their organizations.  We then compared those ratings to the overall 360-degree ratings on decisiveness.  The graph below shows the results.  Leaders who were identified as having high potential scored 10 percentile points higher on their decisiveness than those who were identified as promotable, and 20 percentile points higher than those who were assigned to develop in place. All the differences here are statistically significant.

This analysis shows that a leader’s ability to be decisive significantly affects their leadership potential. What can a leader do to become more decisive?

What Enables Leaders to Be More Decisive?

In further analysis of the 360-degree results, I identified the 20 leadership behaviors that were most strongly correlated with decisiveness. Using a factor analysis, I then identified the eight factors that enabled leaders to make decisions quickly and effectively.  Improvement on these behaviors will help a leader to become more decisive.

1. Risk Taking. A leader who is decisive is willing to take risks. Some leaders believe that if they look at all the data, understand all the contingencies, and calculate all the potential problems, the right decision will magically appear. However, when leaders attempt to do all the analytics, many develop “analysis paralysis” and are unable to make a decision. It is good for leaders to analyze data, look at trends, and anticipate problems. However, eventually leaders need to take a risk and make a decision. When leaders recognize that most decisions are risks, they also acknowledge that they might make the wrong one.

2. Communicates Powerfully. Decisive leaders are excellent communicators who continuously keep others informed, while indecisive leaders keep information to themselves. When leaders are effective at sharing information, often other people raise additional questions or push back on assumptions. This helps leaders to become smarter about the decisions they are making.

3. Strategic Perspective. The most decisive leaders were strategic, while the least decisive were tactical. By only looking at a decision from the view of the next few months, leaders have only a short-term perspective.  Many of their decisions can cause a temporary dip in performance.  Taking the long view helps in making a good decision fit into the longer-term strategy of the organization.  Without the long view, leaders often steer away from a good decision which could result in significant competitive advantage.

4. Technical Expertise. It is difficult to make a decision when you are in over your head technically. Most leaders who encounter this problem daily have two choices: dive in and learn quickly, or pull in others and collaborate. The best leaders involve others with deep expertise. This requires humility on the leader’s part, but the process of asking others for help and working together allows the leader’s expertise and technical depth to increase.

5. Courage. When making a tough decision, there is a moment that requires courage and the ability to stand alone. While others may have contributed to a decision, leaders need to be willing to be the accountable person.

6. Drives for Results. When a good decision fails to be implemented, it quickly turns into a bad decision. Leaders who do not follow through, or fail to act quickly, will not have a successful decision. I often refer to this important capability in being decisive as “push.”

7. Inspires. For a decision to be implemented there is also a need for “pull.” Leaders who can inspire and motivate energize others to change, making it far more likely for their decisions to be implemented.

Zenger Folkman offers a self-assessment that measures your preference for pushing or pulling. The assessment can be found at:

8. Integrity. Leaders who have a strong sense of integrity are able to be more decisive. It can be very clear what choice to make when asked the question, “What is the right thing to do?” Often asking that one question can take a very complicated and complex problem and make it very simple.

For leaders who see the value of becoming more decisive, improving a few of these behaviors will have a profound positive impact on their ability to do so.

This article was originally published on Forbes.



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