Leadership, at some point, means making a tough decision that, in many instances, will be perceived as unpopular. However, to be successful, a decision must be made so that action can be taken to move the organization forward. The most difficult decisions, when acted upon correctly, can turn a negative into an opportunity and potential big win for the team. Why? Because handling difficult decisions is when a leader is tested and shows his or her real worth to their team.
When you have a tough decision to make, first be clear on the outcome you want to achieve. Then, take deliberate and focused action to get it behind you so you can focus on moving forward. It usually takes bold action to achieve bold results. Nothing ever gets better by ignoring it.
I have found—in my own career in leading others, and especially in my coaching experience—that making the right decision when confronted with a difficult situation can be broken down into five simple, yet, important steps:
1. First, break the problem down into smaller pieces. This deconstruction provides a clearer understanding of the problem's clause and the total impact it is having.
2. Next, determine the desired outcome. Yes, you should be thinking about the outcome you want to achieve before you take any action. This helps you separate the facts from the clutter.
3. Identify obstacles in the way of resolving the issue, if any. You can't move forward otherwise.
4. Move forward with specifics. Based on your findings, determine one to three possible actions you can take to make the most effective decision.
5. Based upon what you know, pick the best way forward—and act. Do it and don't look back.
But making a tough decision is only one part of the challenge facing a leader in search of the right solution. In my opinion, the more difficult task that many leaders face is how to communicate that decision to their team after it is made, in a way that all understand it, regardless of whether they agree or not.
—Chris Ruisi, founder and CEO, The Coach's Zone
Many managers overlook this important aspect of the decision-making process—communicating the decision to everyone involved and affected by it.
After going through a challenging process to arrive at the decision, they often fail to properly plan how they will share the decision and poorly communicate the information. This results in wasted time and unnecessary confusion.
I have seen leaders lose their nerve when it comes to sharing the decision with others. They only communicate partial information and avoid anything that might cause some to be unhappy or give rise to conflict. This makes matters worse. Keep in mind, when you try to avoid conflict, it can actually lead to conflict.
When advising your team about your decision, take the time to create a plan for how it will be communicated. Always start with the desired outcome and work back. Part of your plan must include a complete list of all those to whom you must communicate the decision. This step may help you avoid having multiple meetings with different audiences.
Next, prior to any broad announcement, you want to meet one-on-one with those who will be impacted by the decision and who supported a different solution. This private discussion can be a good way to help explain your “why" and allow them to vent. This step gives the individual an opportunity to disagree in private and not in front of a broad audience. At the end of the one-on-one meeting, you can then solicit their buy-in.
And if you have bad news to tell, tell it!
Never try to spin the truth or the facts to make delivering the message easier for you. Stay focused on the issue at hand and don't let other issues or challenges distract you from your outcome. Never let a difficult personality get in the way of communicating the right message. Remember, making the decision is the easy part. Getting everyone with different views to buy in and comply is the real test of a leader.
Making a tough decision when you have to helps you to solve a problem. It also helps to get rid of some heavy emotional baggage and allows you to see what's ahead in a clearer and more focused way. When this happens the right way, it can be a win for you, your team, your organization and your customers.