Senior executive leaders have the distinct challenge of leading company strategy, ensuring excellent execution, and inspiring their teams to deliver on today’s challenges while making difficult decisions to meet the marketplace needs of the future. Effective executive leaders rely on a variety of inputs to support making key decisions. Given how our marketplace continues to grow in complexity, executive leaders need to ensure they have a series of well-informed inputs to make the most effective decisions.
In today’s traditional corporate operating environment, we can all envision the executive team meeting where debate, discussion, and then decisions are made. One of the critical guardrails that senior executives and the top talent on their teams need to put in place during these critical team reviews is to ensure the “loud and proud” don’t carry the discussion and the decision.
Quite often, there are time constraints, over-packed agendas, and data gaps that make these major strategic decisions even more complicated as executive teams come together to wrestle down key decisions for the business. The risk is high that the “loud and proud” carry the day in these discussions. The loudest voice in the room can quickly drive the team’s point of view and ultimately the decision.
Senior executives and the top talent on their teams need to maintain a level of discipline to ensure that all individuals present on their diverse teams have a voice at the table quickly and effectively to ensure they can be most informed in making these key decisions.
Here are a few ideas to help senior executives be more proactive and foster a full debate around key decisions for the company:
- Understand the personalities: We can all appreciate the risk of the extroverts dominating the discussion and the introverts struggling to find an opening to share their thoughts. Leaders need to understand the personalities on their teams ensure all voices have a chance to be heard in the meeting. Many times, leaders should ask the “quiet ones” for their thoughts early in the meeting to ensure the “loud and proud” don’t steamroll the point of view too early in the meeting.
- Appreciate the specialties: Leaders need to ensure that all unit leaders have a voice at the table. Quite often there are valuable insights from finance, manufacturing, operations, human resources, etc. that can many times get pushed to the side by a commercial team screaming about the importance of listening to customers. Addressing customer feedback is critical to the business, but leaders need to ensure the broader operational discipline is in place to ensure budgets can be met and key deliverables hit on time. Mismanaged cash flow and operational discipline can kill a business quickly just like not listening to customers. Leaders need to ensure all specialties have a voice in strategic decisions.
- Take a brief pause: We all want efficiency in decision making. Leaders need to establish an efficient cadence for receiving input and making decisions. When the debate is intense, the issues are complex, and the trade-offs are painful, it may be helpful for leaders to pause on a decision in the moment and take a 24-hour “sleep on it” reprieve for the team before making a final decision. It has been my experience that some helpful insight comes to individuals on the team when given the chance to unplug from the heat of the moment, marinate on the key issues overnight, and with a fresh pot of coffee the next day, a better, well-informed decision is made. Deadlines need to be hit, and the pause may not always be an option, but when the time is available, leaders may be better off by sleeping on it.
Today’s senior executives and top talent set the tone for debate and discussion around key decisions for the business. Leaders need to ensure they have the organizational discipline and process in place to gain input from all relevant stakeholders to make well-informed decisions.
What if I were to ask you, “What is the most difficult leadership challenge you are facing today?” What would you say?
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