This Hard-to-Find, Creative Leadership secret is hiding right under your nose, in plain sight.
Decisiveness is underrated in our industry. Leaders, people, tend to take far too long in making their decisions, generally waiting until they think they have all the available data + information at hand before they make their decisions. Only they almost never have all the available data + information. We rarely have all the available data at-hand in order to move forward with our decision. We simply have to move forward with our decision.
Many of us are terrified of making the wrong decision, especially many of those found in the Executive ranks. While it’s somewhat ironic that they, of all people, would be terrified of making the wrong decision or having it go sideways on them, you can understand their dilemma. Great decisions helped propel them up there. Poor decisions lead to oblivion. And nobody wants that. Therefore, aim to make great decisions, even if it takes you a lot longer to get there.
Except that there’s a problem.
You’re got people waiting on you to make that decision, to decide whether to invest those funds in ten new FTEs, to decide to build-out the team, to decide to finally take this whole Executive thing seriously. Or, not. Or, the status quo. Or, the way things are. Or, to default to sameness. Or, to see things differently, and yet still not act differently.
We are either doing something or we are not doing something. But wait — there’s more!
Along side Creativity, the (other) #1 quality people value most in a leader is decisiveness. Give us all clear direction, tell us your decision, then get out of the way for the rest of us to GO! Right!? Yeah!? Yeah. If only it were more often that simple…
It’s nice to think this is where company strategy comes in. We are told that company strategy drives everything: thinking; behavior; actions; purchases; Go / No-Go decisions; etc. Only, it doesn’t. No. Not really. 😢
Enter Company Culture.
Company Culture is what drives everything. Company Culture is the Ace of Spades Trump card trumping everything. Those in need of a refresher for culture look no further than the actual thoughts, attitudes, outlooks, perspectives, behaviors, meetings and non-meetings, actions and inactions, purchases and non-purchases, decisions and indecisions of the entire org.
THIS is what drives behavior and decision-making. You can be VP of XYZ all day long, yet if the boss doesn’t want you making ‘x’ decision or desires to manage that himself because he feels only he knows best, well you’ve just encountered the truth about your company culture. That’s not strategy. That’s org culture trumping strategy.
As Marketing Wizard Seth Godin states in his impeccable *This is Marketing* book, Culture is people like us doing things like this. People like us who only do things like this. The ‘only’ is ‘how we do things around here.’ And ‘How we do things around here’ is powerful! It is control! It is behavior control! In another way, it is mind-control.
The O.G. IBM Way.
Think about the early day IBMers actually singing the company song. (Really — they did that in their blue suits. Look it up.)
IBMers singing the company song exhibit ‘people like us doing things like this.’ Culture. Company Culture. IBM culture. The IBM Way. They are (trying) to all sing the same song in the same tune. Though it is far more likely the IBM salespeople were often out of tune with one another, even out of tune with the entire organization.
IBM Decisions were made in the top-down, Soviet-style, hierarchy-obsessed way. It was the boss’s way or the highway. Your choice. This is people like us. You either fall into line 100% or you’re out. Which do you pick?
While the O.G. IBM Way might have been somewhat harsh, that’s the way most organizations made decisions back in the day. Some orgs haven’t actually changed that much since those days if they’re lucky enough to still be around, grasping desperately onto the way things were.
Enter Jocko and De-Centralized Command.
Discipline / Leadership Wizard and U.S. Navy SEAL Jocko Willink stresses the importance of de-centralized command in all of his books. Push the decision as far down the line as you can — out into the field. In this way, the people on the frontlines have the power to make the best decision they can with the information they have at-hand. They don’t have to wait for 4 or 5 stripes upward to make the decision for them, and then wait again for the 4 or 5 stripes back down to get the next steps. They just step back, decide, and then GO! That’s De-Centralized command. And it works!
Jocko has to talk about this de-centralized concept ALL THE TIME on his podcast and in his books because it is so hard to get organizational cultures to shift to this way of thinking, to this new manner of leadership. It is a drum he will be beating for decades as the org structure, culture, its ways and means slowly… start to shift like Tectonic Plates.
In his and his partner’s consulting company, Echelon Front, they’re trying to shift organizational & leadership behavior and decision-making. That’s hard! All adult behavior change is hard work. Why? Because this is people like us doing things like this. This is Culture. This is who we are.
Just think about the time savings, effort savings, emotional savings, and mitigation of miscommunication De-Centralized decision-making creates!
Confident Decision-Making through Experimentation and Testing.
The Good People at Amazon make a lot of decisions. They make a lot of tough decisions. They make a lot of data-backed decisions. Only not all of the decisions can be data-backed. Just like yours. Of course, it would be nice if they all could, Of course, it would be great if we had ALL the data to make our decisions, but we often don’t. So, what do we do? If you work at Amazon, you GO anyway.
Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos often states that he wants his people to make decisions even if they only have 40% of the data / information at hand. 40%! 40% and they still GO! Now, THAT’s executive function momentum! THAT’s speed. THAT’s going. THAT is confident decision-making.
Executive Function drives ahead.
It turns out they don’t know how it is going to turn out. And they’re OK with that. 👍
Wait — how can this be confident decision-making when Executives only have 40% of the data at hand to make it? Because they’re confidently testing, confidently experimenting, confidently trying, confidently believing in the process.
They don’t know how it is going to turn out. That’s why they try!
They’re free to experiment. They’re flipping the whole thing around. They’re turning the tables. They’re moving forward at the risk of moving slightly, very temporarily, backward if something doesn’t work. But THEY ARE MOVING.
Amazon Executives are building momentum. And this fast-decision / decision-making drives the Amazon organization culture. Fast decision-making is who we are. This is what we do. This is how things are done around here in Seattle.
What is confidence? Confidence is…
What is confidence? Confidence is our belief in our ability to figure things out. Confidence is not entirely knowing how something will turn out and yet going anyway. Confidence is momentum. We may not have all the data / information to make our decision right now. But we’re going in anyway. We’re making one anyway. We’re pushing in this direction anyway. We’re getting after it anyway. We’re going forward like we always do because this is our Culture. This is people like us making fast decisions like this. This is decisive leadership. This is confident decisiveness.