There is a pervasive myth in business that the best leaders are the ones that make the best decisions. However, recent studies have shown that this isn’t necessarily the case.
According to a recent study published in Harvard Business Review, one of the four things that set successful CEOs apart is the ability to make decisions with speed and conviction.
Chris Myers (is the Cofounder and CEO of BodeTree) said: “As it turns out, the outcome of any given decision is typically less important for an organization than how the decision was made. I found this insight to be particularly interesting because I’ve had the opportunity to work as both a strategist and a CEO throughout my career. As a strategist, my job was to think. I relished in intellectual complexity that came along with deep dives into various issues impacting the business. Naturally, I brought this approach to bear at BodeTree once I became CEO.”
1. Practice reflective urgency
The first skill I had to master was that of reflective urgency, which is the ability to consciously and rapidly reflect on the priorities, resources, and needs of the moment.
For me, this came down to developing and maintaining a balanced "big picture" view of the business as a whole.
I realized that I had to be constantly aware of the most important near-term priorities and balance them with their long-term impact and the resources I had available at the moment.
Reflective urgency is a form of integrated thinking, where two conflicting ideas are held and explored at the same time. In this scenario, I learned to find the most direct path to the most important priority of the moment.
The resulting path is one that makes sense to me but often looks circuitous and confusing to members of my team. However, the benefits that resulted from the clarity and conviction of my decision outweighed any confusion in the near-term.
2. Determine your data threshold
Earlier in my career, I wanted to gather 100% of the available data before even contemplating making a decision. Of course, looking back I realize just how ridiculous this was.
In real life leadership roles, you’ll never have all of the information and data before having to make a decision. There are just too many variables and unknowns out there.
Any attempt to gather that much information will bring your decision-making process to a grinding halt, paralyzing both you and your organization.
Instead, leaders have to get comfortable with their personal “data thresholds.” Personally, I’m comfortable making a definitive decision once I have about 65% of the story in place. It’s just enough to know the direction and magnitude of the decision at hand and to weigh the most salient facts.
Everybody’s data threshold is different, but it’s important that it’s under 80%. Going any higher will only slow you and the rest of your team down.
3. Remember that a wrong decision is better than no decision at all
There are few decisions in life or business that cannot be reversed or modified. We tend to treat all business decisions as life-or-death, as though we’re being graded based on the effectiveness of the outcomes.
Of course, outcomes do matter, but it’s rare that they’re permanent. Good leaders recognize that they will inevitably make a wrong decision at some point along the way. This realization is incredibly freeing and enables leaders to make decisions more rapidly and keep things in perspective.
It’s important for leaders to remember that how a decision is made is often more important than the decision itself. Leaders who make decisions with speed and conviction might not always get things right, but they’ll be able to keep their organization moving forward.
Wrong decisions can be fixed, but indecisiveness will damage your organization and reputation beyond repair.