Welcome to the No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. In a world where knowledge has become a commodity, this podcast is designed to give you something more; access to the experience of a successful CEO who has already walked the path. So join your host Martin Moore, who will unlock and bring to life your own leadership experiences, and accelerate your journey to leadership excellence.
Hi there and welcome to episode 20 of The No Bullsh!t Leadership podcast. This week's episode, Making Great Decisions Part 1, aka Getting The Most Out of Your Team. Now there are many factors to making great decisions. Some of which are technical and analytical, but many of which are based on your own leadership skill. In this episode, we deal with the fundamental question of how to get the most from your people to enhance and improve your decision making capability.
So we're going to start by asking the question why all the fuss about diversity and inclusion? We're going to talk about how great leaders set an appropriate decision making culture. We'll cover the five ways to drive better decisions through your people, and then we're going to just talk about a few of the traps for young players that I see many leaders fall into. Let's get into it!
When we talk about getting the most out of our people we can't do that without talking about diversity and inclusion. And why all the fuss about this? Malcolm Forbes, the publisher of Forbes Magazine, said, "Diversity is the art of thinking independently together." And if we think about that it simply means, taking the best every individual has to offer to improve the overall result that we can achieve. And it actually does help you to achieve better results. Research tells us that more diverse companies actually perform better in terms of their profitability. And this is generally accepted as true although it's probably opportune for me to remind you to beware of the important distinction between causation and correlation. And I use this example in episode 8 when I was debunking the myth that happy workers are productive workers, which is actually not necessarily the case. But a causal relationship is one for example like we have between altitude and temperature. It's causal because one actually causes the other by direct impact. So the higher up you go in terms of altitude the colder it gets in terms of temperature. That relationship is causal.
But there are non causal relations that are simply correlations. So smoking and alcoholism are correlated, but one doesn't cause the other. Smoking doesn't cause you to be an alcoholic. And being an alcoholic doesn't cause you to smoke. But we find that quite often the two go together. So we've just got to be careful to understand that distinction. So the first question I ask myself is, what else is going on in those companies? Is it just the diversity? Well, let's trace it backwards. Why would companies perform better? Well the first thing is, if we boil it all down it's just going to be the sum of the cumulative actions that the company decides to take. And if the cumulative actions are better than their competition, then we can assume that they're making better decisions on virtually everything.
So how do they deliver better decisions? Well there's some obvious things like accuracy, but speed is so important. And I'm going to talk about speed decision making a lot over the time we get to know each other. But when we think of it from the people perspective we're talking about the ability to harness a broader range of opinions, knowledge, experience and perspective. We're talking about understanding issues more holistically because of this. And this helps us to also avoid group think and a 'yes man' culture. But bringing perspectives from other industries and other experiences that people have can quite often give you an edge of organisations that don't have that. Now this is intuitively obvious, so we need to think about this when we're building teams to make sure that we have as diverse a team as possible.
Just stepping back a little from the diversity that individual people bring, there's also the diversity of the different functions that you have in your organisation. So when making a major decision you may want to seek a legal opinion, and an opinion from finance, a commercial opinion, you may want to understand from HR what the people impacts are, and maybe a chief marketing officer is going to tell you about the customer impacts. But you want to weigh in all of those differences as well. Because they're going to give you a better view of the problem and enable a better holistic solution.
So this is all great in theory. And if you say it fast enough it sounds easy. But how do you actually create a culture inside your organisation that enables this to happen? Because I’ve got to tell you, it does not happen of its own accord. There's nothing automatic or natural about the way these opinions are brought together to actually build a better decision. Great leaders set an appropriate decision making culture. Now people need to know for a start that robust challenge is expected and rewarded not frowned upon and suppressed. You've got to be able to challenge each other, and the people around you need to be able to challenge you as a decision maker to bring out your best. And this process necessarily has some tension, and some friction if you actually want to bring these different views to the table and debate them and work through them together. Now virtually every leader says that's what they create. But do they? And how many people around you as leaders do you see doing this well?
Fostering a culture where robust challenge is the norm and people bring out their own viewpoints fearlessly because it's not personal, and they know that it's for the benefit of the whole group. But many leaders unwittingly kill this culture because they can't handle that robust challenge themselves. And you don't want to be one of those leaders. So let's see if these things ring a bell. Do you know any leaders who get angry when someone offers something that they don't like? Have you ever seen a leader shut someone down in mid sentence because their views don't accord with that person? Have you ever experienced another leader who's not listening actively? Or in fact, not listening at all? Have you seen leaders put their view out first and make everyone else's views simply a formality? Or have you seen leaders demonstrating their own unwillingness to change their views even when new or better information comes to light? These are things that so many leaders do. They don't know they're doing it. They don't understand the impact it has on their team, but it certainly pushes people back to a place where they're not going to give you the full benefit of their views and perspectives. And that's going to sum up the demise of the decision making process right there.
Let's talk about five ways to drive better decisions through your people. And I want to commence with a caveat here that says, don't ever mess with the accountability model. And if you haven't listened to last week's episode, Execution for Results, you need to go and do that because that's how you drive accountability to get superior execution. Given that the object of the exercise is to leverage the breadth of expertise, experience and perspectives, where appropriate, from the people around you. Once you get the right people involved, how do you harness this power? Well you need to set expectations for getting appropriate involvement from the right people who can add value. And then you have to do five key things.
So the first thing is, for anyone to give you sensible input into a problem, or a decision you have to ensure that they have access to all the available information. You can't give someone bits and pieces of information and expect them to form a sensible view. So make sure that everyone in the loop has all the information that you have.
Second thing is, draw out the views on what they see as important. You don't want 'yes men', and you don't want a 'yes man' culture. It adds absolutely no value. And you've probably heard me say before that I say to my direct reports, if you don't bring something unique and different to the table, if you think the same things that I think, then at least one of us is redundant. And it's probably not me. As the leader you need to set the expectation that people's best is required and that they have to put their own view forward without fear or favour.
The third thing is, you have to allow debate and stimulate challenge. And in fact, the only way this happens is if you are actively driving the room. So if you're a decision maker, and you're sitting with a group of people, you need to actually bring out their best. Ask them questions. If someone's being particularly quiet say, "Okay Nancy, what's your view on this?" Or, "Okay, we haven't yet heard from you Andrew. Do you have a perspective?" Get people used to nailing their colours to the mast to basically saying, this is what I think, this is what I believe, and this is how I think we should proceed. If you can do that you'll have a lot descent, you'll have a lot of disagreement, but you'll also have much better information on the table with a much more holistic set of opinions and viewpoints.
Number four is that you have to make the process pure. And when I say make the process pure, what I mean is, debate happens in the room. Debate happens when debate is appropriate. It doesn't happen around the water cooler. And once a decision is made, you need solidarity around that decision. It's not a democracy, but by the same token you need people to all get behind and say, “I've given my opinion, I feel as though I've been listened to, and the decision is X. That's how we're going to move forward.” It's pretty common, and to an extent it's just human nature for leaders to say, if I don't agree with a decision I'm going to white ant, and I'm going to tell my team I don't agree with it. But the ramifications and repercussions of that are much bigger than you could possibly imagine because people lose faith in the actual system and the structure of the organisation. And that's not where you want to be.
Now the final one, number five is that you have to make sure that the decisions still rest with the accountable person. This is not decision making by committee. And it's not a democracy. The decision maker has the decision rights. What you have to make sure is they have all the available information at their fingertips in order to make the best decision they possibly can.
Okay so here's the money ball. What would the perfect template look like for great decisions made with the right level of consultation to bring out the value of the people you have around you? Step one, know who needs to have input. And here's a little hint, it's not everyone. There is such a thing as over collaboration. And because collaboration and inclusion have become so popular and so hackneyed these days we somehow get the sense that we have to include every single person in every conversation and every decision. That's just crap. It doesn't work like that. You need to know who needs to have input based on the value that they can bring. And that's the first decision, and the first step in harnessing the diversity that you have.
Step two is to bring out the views of your people. And as I said, this is easier said than done. But you have to really work at making sure that people are putting their real views on the table and that you're managing to get the value of the different perspectives and experiences they have.
Step three is to consider all the information at your fingertips carefully and weigh it up according to the most critical factors. So of the fifty things in front of you, only three or four are going to be important. But you have to be able to identify those and let the rest of it go. And this is another subject all in itself.
But once you got all the information at hand and you know you're not going to get any more, well then it's time to make a decision. And it's time to make a decision quickly. You don't sit around ruminating, wringing your hands, and wishing you had more information for weeks on end. You make a call. So the way you make a call is to actually let people know really clearly that you're the accountable decision maker and here's what you've decided to do. And it goes something like this:
“Okay, thank you very much everyone for your input. It's been extremely valuable. I've heard what you all have to say and I've listened carefully to your input. And now I've decided that we're going to do X. And we're going to do it for these reasons”. That gives you the opportunity to explain what the decision is to make it very, very clear which direction you're heading and why you've decided to do that.
Now whether people find that a good, bad, or indifferent decision they'll respect the fact that you've listened to them. If they feel heard they will know that they've had their input and they've been able to influence in some way. Clarity, decisiveness, and tempo decision making are priceless.
Finally I just want to talk a little bit about the traps for young players. And there's three of these ones that I just want to drop on you. So the first one is, don't let the diverse inputs that come from a decision making process confuse you. And we've spoken about this just briefly. Sort out what's real and what's noise. You've got to know which the most important bits of information are that are in front of you because some, even thought they are very, very dear to one of the people that's giving you input, is virtually irrelevant to the decision you have to make. And being able to know that is quite difficult.
The second trap for young players is you need real judgement to work out how to weigh the appropriate advice and viewpoints from a diverse group. Now it can be really tricky, and this is where your experience, temperament, and your quotients come into play. So IQ, EQ, and AQ. And if you’ve not seen the Leadership Level Up masterclass I talk a little bit about the three legged stool of IQ, EQ, and AQ and how they actually support your performance as a leader. Now IQ of course is intelligence. EQ is your emotional intelligence, and AQ is adversity quotient or your resilience. And sometimes you need all three of these when making a decision.
So as a quick example, spare a thought, for a CEO making a media statement in a crisis situation. They will generally have considered a range of advice from experts, from both within and outside their organisation. There will be a statement that they would like to make personally but very often they can't make that. They'll have constraints that need to be balanced and adhered to from legal, from risk, from public relations, and from share holder relations, obviously from a market disclosure position if you're a listed company. So this is why quite often these statements seem to be dispassionate and sometimes even robotic. Very few leaders actually get the balance right. Which we can all see in retrospect. And there have been some really memorable examples with Tony Hayward the chief executive of BP at the time of the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Or Deborah Thomas the chief executive of Ardent Leisure when the Dreamworld disaster occurred in Australia in 2016. So you don't want to be one of those leaders that completely gets in wrong. But it isn't easy 'cause these are smart people. So make sure that you use all the judgement you possibly have at your disposal. And use your mentors to make sure you get this right because it isn't easy.
Finally, while you're on your quest to harness the diversity of the organisation and make better holistic decisions don't ever let it cut across the accountability culture of your organisation. It has to be crystal clear who has the decision rights. And if it isn't, you're just disempowering your people. Don't ever let your accountable decision makers feel as though you've put them in a situation where you're after consensus or you're after a decision by committee. They still need to know that they carry the can for the decision and for the eventual outcome that that generates. In my experience decision by committee is worse than a non consultative decision because it lacks clarity. Decisions by committee is slow and by definition, they are sub optimal. And they don't allow solidarity post decision because no one is really happy. So make sure your accountability culture remains strong.
Okay, so that brings us to the end of episode 20. Thanks so much for joining us, and remember at Your CEO Mentor our purpose is to improve the quality of leaders globally. So if you liked this episode please share it with your leadership network so that we can reach even more leaders. I look forward to next week's episode where I'm going to talk about the balance between education and experience, and talk about how to balance your toolkit.
Until then, I know you'll do everything you can to be a no bullsh!t leader.