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A Look Under the Hood | Decision Making Q and A with the Expert

a look under the hoodThe WorkSMARTERBetter™ webinar team sat down with Chet Holmes International’s VP of Business Growth, Bill Sifflard, to get his professional opinion on where business leaders go astray when it comes to decision making. Bill has spent decades under the hoods of hundreds of businesses, figuring out how to restore them to optimum performance. We wanted to know what clues Bill looks for when he diagnoses businesses’ decision making problems. These are some of the questions he asks.

How much of your time is spent making tactical versus strategic decisions?

Put another way, are you spending your time calculating the cost of pens for the office, or are you laying out a new marketing strategy? On average, leaders are spending only 20% of their time on strategic decisions. Their days are filled giving thumbs up or down on a host of lesser decisions, and then all of a sudden, they find no time has been spent on the really important ones.

What’s your decision making process like? How does it work?

An example: I took over a manufacturing business. One day, the VP of Engineering walks in and says, I have some decisions that need to be made. He went through the list – all of them were technical decisions. He asked, “So what do we do?” And I said, “Well, you’re the VP.” He answered, “Yeah, but the last boss always told me what to do.” He wanted to give me the monkey on his back – a monkey his previous boss was all too happy to take. He was wasting time making decisions he paid others to make. These leaders don’t empower their people to make decisions, and then their employees don’t have a vested interest. That’s one type of decision-making process error.

The other type looks like this: employees make a decision and the boss finds out what it was weeks or months later. They are hands-off—literally washing their hands of the repercussions. Both parties suffer in this scenario.

Responsibility must be shared effectively up and down the ladder in order for the best decisions to create real change.

How good of a delegator are you? How do you choose what to delegate versus what to handle personally?

What type of decisions should you be responsible for? That’s the first and hardest decision to make. For very small businesses, it’s typically a one-man show – but they still need a decision making process, not just a throw at the dartboard approach. For larger businesses, it’s a matter of bringing in people you trust and giving them full authority to make certain decisions – and then actually letting them make them.

Leaders who are poor delegators are typically afraid others will make the wrong decisions. They feel a deep obligation to the success of the business but are convinced that they’re the only person who can make the right choices. They also are worried about losing authority.

On the other hand, leaders who are fine with delegating often have the opposite problem: they delegate too much. They are afraid of failure but at the same time acknowledge something needs to be done, so they let others handle it without any checks and balances in place. It’s great to let others take ownership of their areas, but they need to be a bigger part of the overall process, so they understand the full ramifications of the decisions they are making.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of your organization?

Many business owners haven’t learned how to ask the right questions or get the right feedback to make good decisions. They don’t have the right metrics to make the higher level strategic decisions. Their employees don’t understand what the goals and objectives are.

Oftentimes, business leaders end up overwhelmed by information – but it’s the wrong information. Too much input and intel. Chet Holmes talked about the problem with “got-a-minute meetings”. There’s no processes or controls on what the business leader is asked to decide. They lose control of the goals and strategic objectives.

Are you in growth mode or crisis mode?

This is apparent from a quick look at the books. Clues would be declining sales, smaller profits, lengthening sales cycles, and cash flows problems. Some business leaders are in denial. The “Yeah, but…” defensive statements pepper conversations on what to do now. After the truth comes out, the next step is to figure out why they’re in crisis mode, and it’s always about their fears – primarily a fear of failure. Operating in crisis mode sometimes looks like extreme proactivity. They’re working at a hundred miles an hour, willing to try anything. The problem is, they’re making emotional choices and not thinking them through. Fear narrows their focus requiring the need for an outside perspective.

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