Tag Archives: Decisions

Making Hard Choices

Caught Between A Rock And A Hard PlaceWhen you are in a leadership position there will come a time when you have to make a hard decision.  It maybe that you have to fire someone or you must cancel a project or deny someone a promotion.  Whatever that decision is you will be required to act on it.  That is your role as the leader.  Unfortunately you can feel like you are between a rock and a hard place.

The key to being effective in making these hard decisions is in your mindset.  How you react to the situation will determine how your team handles it.

If you dread the decision and worry about it then it becomes bigger and harder to make.  You may also delay making the call which can have a negative impact on your team.

  • If you keep a bad employee because you don’t want to fire someone you are telling your team that you will tolerate poor performance.
  • If you let the team continue working on a dead project you are telling them that their time and efforts really aren’t important because you wasted it.
  • If you hold off on a promotion to avoid hurting someone you have missed a chance to help them grow into the job they want and you have given them false hope.

As you can see all of these are discouraging to a team.

If you embrace your role as a leader and all that it entails you will welcome the chance to make those hard calls.  It doesn’t mean you enjoy firing or denying a promotion to someone.  It means that you are willing to do what is needed to keep your team going forward and growing.

  • If you have worked on correcting someone’s performance and they are not making the grade then let them go.  They may even thank you for helping them get out of a situation that was not good for them.  I’ve seen it happen.
  • When you let someone know they aren’t ready for a promotion yet and give them feedback on what they can do to improve their skills you are helping them grow so they will be prepared next time.
  • If you have to cancel a project that is underway and you are open about the reasons you are helping your team understand the business and they can help make better decisions about their work and projects in the future.

Being a leader means you have to pay attention to the needs of the organization and take care of the people in it.  This means you must make the tough decisions when needed.  If you handle it in a calm and professional manner people will respect you for it.  If you drag your feet and delay those decisions your team will see through it and you will lose some respect from them.  You aren’t willing to stand up and decide; which is your job.  Your team wants you to lead, so go ahead and make the hard choices.  Be firm but fair and above all be professional and considerate when dealing with people.  They will like you better for it.

How have you handled the tough choices you’ve had to make?

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Quote for Aug 26th

HappyMost folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln

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Team Conflict

team conflictDoes your team engage in conflict?  If so is it constructive or destructive?  Too often teams avoid conflict because they fear it will become destructive and lead to personal attacks.  Conflict that becomes personal can destroy the trust within the team.  So is all conflict within team bad?  No, it’s actually vital for the development of high performing teams.

So how do you get a team on board with conflict?  First you must ensure that there is real trust within the team.  If people do not believe that their teammates have their best interests at heart then conflict can be seen as personal not business.  This will not work.

Once you have trust established it is up to the team leader to encourage and elicit constructive conflict during team meetings.  Constructive conflict is the open exchange of differing ideas and opinions.  It is about sharing perspective and experiences with people who have other ideas.  The team leader must encourage the healthy exchange of ideas.  This is how you get to the best solutions and ideas for solving problems.  In addition the team leader will have to help guide the team to resolution so that they can move forward.  This means overcoming the obstacles to conflict resolution.

Obstacles to Conflict Resolution:

  • Facts, Opinions, and Perspectives (Informational)
  • Company Culture, Politics, and Moods (Environmental)
  • Legacy Events, Reputation, and Position (Relationship)
  • Experience, Knowledge, and Self-Esteem (Individual)

The biggest challenge for the team leader is identifying the various obstacles that are inhibiting resolution of the conflict.  Each team member may be in a different place, so finding the right path to getting agreement on a solution can be a rough road.  When there is high level of trust within the team it will be easier to find the causes of the roadblocks.

When there is a solution on the table that is being resisted here are several questions you can ask to get past the objections and onto resolution.

  1. What would it take to make this work for you?
  2. Where have you seen this fail before?  What were the circumstances in that case?
  3. What additional information do you need to become comfortable with this?
  4. How might this fail?  How can we overcome those issues?

The key to productive conflict is an environment where opinions and perspectives are valued and sought.  This allows each person to express their thoughts openly and without fear of repercussions.  This allows the conflict to generate ideas and options.  To get to a single solution to implement it is imperative that the conflict is effectively resolved.  That requires overcoming the obstacles and objections that surface.  Acknowledge the concerns and seek team solutions to address them.  This will help each member feel valued and supported.  This leads to commitment to the decision made.

Conflict is a valuable tool during team meetings.  It allows other ideas and options to be identified and evaluated.  Keep conflict constructive and your team is on the way to high performance results.

For more information on this topic see Patrick Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.  This is addressed as his second dysfunction – fear of conflict.

 

photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Quote for Sep 18th

The path to success is to take massive, determined action.

Tony Robbins

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Quote for Sep 11th

A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.

Douglas McCarthur

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Quote for Aug 23rd

When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I’ll like it or not.  Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me.  But once a decision has been made, the debate ends.  From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own.

Colin Powell

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Time Management and The “Big Things” in Life

I wanted to share with you a great parable on time management.  It’s been around for years in many forms, I’ve captured one variation. 

The point of the parable is to take care of the “big” things first.  These are the items that are most important to you.  Doing those first creates room for all the little things, but if the little things come first the big things get left out.

Here is a video of Stephen R Covey demonstrating this if you haven’t seen it in person.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wu5Dn4uCau8

So what are you focused on today?

Time Management Parable

by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown

One day, an expert in time management was speaking to a group of business students and, to drive home a point, used an illustration those students will never forget.

As he stood in front of the group of high-powered overachievers he said,

“Okay, time for a quiz” and he pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouth mason jar and set it on the table in front of him. He also produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class yelled, “Yes.”

The time management expert replied, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. He dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. He then asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class was on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Good!” he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in the jar and it went into all of the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?” “No!” the class shouted.

Once again he said, “Good.” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard you can always fit some more things in it!”

“No,” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”

What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life, time with your loved ones, your faith, your education, your dreams, a worthy cause, teaching or mentoring others? Remember to put these big rocks in first or you’ll never get them in at all. So, tonight, or in the morning, when you are reflecting on this short story, ask yourself this question: What are the ‘big rocks’ in my life? Then, put those in your jar first.

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A Thought for Thursday

A question to ask ourselves…

A young woman went to her mother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling.  It seemed as soon as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs, and in the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil; without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see.”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots.  She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee. The daughter smiled as she tasted its rich aroma. The daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile.  Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened. The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

Think of this: Which am I? Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, have I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, but on the inside am I bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you. When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? How do you handle adversity?

Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

May we all be COFFEE!!

This was sent to me by a friend and I had to share it with all of you.  It’s a great story to remind us that we can choose our response to the things that happen in our lives.  So choose wisely!

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Taking a Stand

There comes a time when the group is going one direction and you think it would be best to go another direction.  How do you handle that one?  You can go with the flow and hope for the best or you can stand up and say what you think would be best.  The first is the easier path, and it gives you the chance to say “I knew it wouldn’t work” if things go wrong at a later date.  The second choice is much harder, and yet it can be much more rewarding.  The key to being effective in this is to be professional in your handling of a dissenting vote.  No one really listens seriously to the constant naysayer, however they will listen to the person who can state their opinion clearly and concisely when appropriate.

Here are a few ideas for how to make this work for you:

  1. Pick your battle carefully.  It is important to make sure you are going against the grain when you have solid reasons to believe the chosen path is wrong.  Just because it wasn’t your first choice doesn’t make it wrong.
  2. Have facts.  Back your stance up with solid information.  If you can cite studies, data or other reliable information that supports your position then you will be much more credible.
  3. Timing is everything.  Make sure you bring up your concerns before the ball is in motion.  If you wait until the change has started it may be too late and you will not be well received.  Also, speaking up without all the facts can cause you to look like Chicken Little.
  4. Speak calmly.  Presenting your cause with conviction and facts will go a long way to getting your point across.  People who rant about why something is wrong make their audience defensive and they will tune out.  It’s okay to be passionate about it, just not overly emotional.  You want to be taken seriously, not taken as the little kid who didn’t get his way.
  5. Concede graciously.  If after making your case and no change in direction was made, you need to get on board with it.  All you can really ask for is to be heard and your thoughts considered.  If that was done then support the team decision.  Keep any “I told you so” thoughts to yourself if they arise.  People really hate poor losers.

When making your case you can use the formula of “Here is what I think, here are the facts supporting it, and this is the benefit of going this way.”  If you focus on the positives of your ideas and stay away from attacking the other idea then your ideas will be better received.  Attacking someone’s decision will always make them defensive and close their minds to new ideas. 

Personally I really respect people who will take a stand against popular opinion.  These folks are confident in their convictions and I want to hear what they are thinking.  Often this is where some of the best ideas and innovations will come from.  So listen carefully to that dissenting voice.  It may be the voice of reason.

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Decide Already

Jim Rohn
It doesn’t matter which side of the fence you get off on sometimes. What matters most is getting off. You cannot make progress without making decisions.

Too often we get into the analysis paralysis trap.  We think if I get a little bit more information I’ll make the perfect decision.  Collect a little more data and the decision will become clear.  Lots of activity is going on, people are working hard but nothing is really moving forward.  It can feel like being the hamster on the wheel, running and running and yet getting nowhere.

So how do you get off this treadmill?  Here are a few tips to help you get to the business of making decisions to move your organization forward.

  1. Focus.  First know what it is that needs to be decided.  Is it what project will support the strategic goals best? Is it how to allocate the limited resources of the department?  Is it who to hire to round out the team?  Whatever it is be clear on what is the question you need to answer.
  2. Get Information.  Making any decision without information is risky, it’s like playing a slot machine – maybe you will win, probably you will lose your investment.  So once you know what question you are answering you can determine what information you need to know to find the right answer.  Now that you know what’s needed start to collect the information. 
  3. Evaluate.  When you get about 80% of the information you identified as needed take time to evaluate what you now know about the decision.  Do you have enough data to make an educated decision?  If so organize the data and get ready to move on.
  4. Identify Risks.  Now that you have identified some of the possible decisions you need to explore the risks associated with each one.  What is the risk of taking this action?  What is the risk of not taking this action?   Weigh the risks of moving forward against the risks of inaction.
  5. Decide.  You now have information; you know what’s at risk so now you can decide and getting moving forward.

Rarely will you have the luxury of getting all of the information you would like to have before you must act, so get comfortable with weighing your options and evaluating risks.  When you have 80% of the information and you look at it closely, along with the risks, you will see what the best course of action is. 

At times you will fail.  The key then is to learn from it and apply it to the next action.  Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”   Waiting for perfection is the biggest failure of all – so decide already!

picture from iStockPhoto.com

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