Some decisions are easy. You probably don’t agonize over which pants to wear or whether to have cereal or eggs for breakfast. Other decisions? Well, when they are important, it’s easy to get bogged down in the details and question whether you are making the right one or not.
Arguably, taking time to make important decisions is important, especially when it comes to your business. You want to be sure that you are basing your decision on the right information and that the outcome of the choice will move your business forward. It’s also important that your employees feel confident making decisions. When they get bogged down in the details, or struggle to make decisions out of fear of being wrong or “getting in trouble,” your business can lose momentum, and you waste time discussing and approving choices.
One of the signs that a leader is effective is that employees feel empowered to make decisions and confident that the choices they make are the right ones. Some of this decision-making ability comes from the individuals themselves – those who are knowledgeable and experienced are more likely to be confident decision-makers than new employees – but just as much comes from the organizational culture and leadership support of decision-making.
If you’ve noticed that your company feels like it’s stagnating and that your employees are struggling to make decisions, you may wish to employ some new techniques to encourage your team to be more confident decision-makers. With these techniques, you will notice faster and better decisions and improved progress toward company goals.
1. Provide education
Ongoing training and education is consistently listed as one of the most sought-after benefits by employees, and companies that provide personal and career development opportunities to employees generally enjoy increased profits, higher levels of employee satisfaction, and improved productivity.
Offer your employees a variety of opportunities to improve their skills. Host a business-wide meeting and hire motivational speakers to come inspire your employees and boost their confidence levels. Offer in-office training in the decision-making process, with an emphasis on analysis, to give your employees the tools they need to make decisions, ensuring that they don’t fall victim to “paralysis of analysis” or second-guess themselves.
2. Empower your employees to make decisions
All the training in the world is not going to help if your employees are not empowered to make decisions. When you second-guess them, limit their responsibility, micromanage tasks, and otherwise create the image of autonomy while still maintaining control over the final outcome, you undermine their confidence and create an environment in which they remain reluctant to make decisions.
Instead, work on creating an environment in which you trust your employees and give them space to develop their skills. Employees who have demonstrated responsibility and the ability to make solid decisions should be given more power to do so. Let people do the job that they were hired to do, and before you criticize or second-guess, ask yourself if your feedback is truly necessary, or just a reaction to someone doing something differently than you might have done. You will probably find that most of the time, when you empower people to take initiative and use the tools they have available to them, your feedback is unnecessary.
3. Encourage success, not perfection
Oftentimes, it’s difficult for your employees to make decisions because they fear that the decision they do make won’t have perfect results. They fear the consequences of taking action that leads to an adequate, but not perfect, outcome, or worse, a mistake. To help overcome this fear, you need to support a culture in which success, not perfection, is the aim. Not every decision can lead to a win, and sometimes the best option is one that only gets you most of the way toward the goal. By establishing that you do not expect perfection every time, but that you want employees to make decisions that get as close as possible to that goal, you provide some breathing room that encourages confidence.
Making decisions isn’t always easy, and there will be times when it seems like no option is a great option. However, when you help your employees be more confident decision-makers by giving them the resources and encouragement they need, the likelihood increases of decisions being favorable to your company and helping you grow.
Regularly scheduled training courses are a lousy way to give employees the necessary skills to thrive. See A New Model for Corporate Learning.