(First published in this blog Dec. 2, 2015)

We often see leaders making huge decisions.

If you worked for Pfizer Corporation in Ann Arbor Michigan 10 or so years back when they announced the shutdown of all facilities in that city, setting 10,000 employees out of work, you may have wondered why. If you worked for Target Canada in early 2015 when it announced a shutdown of Canadian Operations, you might have wondered why.

Decisions are made every day affecting hundreds, thousands and even millions of people and we often wonder what went into the decision-making process.

Good judgement and good decision making decision skills are key attributes of great leaders. This is an attribute that seems to be often overlooked as a key ingredient to leadership success.

So, what goes into sound decision making?

First of all, I think the most important part of sound decision making is the strength to stand by your decision.  Once you make it, you need to own it.  For that to happen, a leader needs to apply a process that will stand up to the scrutiny of people and time.

This process has three steps:

  1. Decision making must involve the time and process to evaluate the facts, explore the options, analyse the risks and predict the outcome. In most cases, input is solicited from others, data is analysed, and facts are reviewed. It is vital that a leader be able to say in the end that he/she did everything to ensure a sound decision was made.
  1. The Call. Once you have weighed all the facts and details, you will make the call.  This step is as important as the Preparation.  You need to deliver with authority, strength and empathy.  Your community needs to hear the news, or decision, at the right time, in the right format and in the right environment.  You would never tell an individual that they are being let go in front of anyone else.  Pfizer needed to be careful about the announcement of closure in 2015.  It would affect thousands of lives. 
  1. The Execution. Having a plan to back up the decision is critical, and this follow-through will make or break all the preparation that has come before. I can think of some great decisions made with the right research and information, made with authority and fairness, but executed poorly. Great leadership sees a decision through to execution.

Having said all of this, it is important to note that not all decisions are the right ones in the end. Great leaders know this, but they are willing to take the risk of being wrong.   If they followed these three steps to good decision making and judgement, they will be able to stand up to anyone over time and say ‘we made the decision after the right amount of preparation, we made the call well and we executed on the plan as promised’.

Next time you have an important decision to make, step back, create a plan and execute well.

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