How to Make Better Decisions as a New Manager
In our new manager training sessions, we often ask new supervisors how much information they need to make a smart and well-informed decision.
If we were to ask you as a new manager about the best way to make a decision, would you vote for waiting until you had all the information that could affect your choice?
Most new managers say “yes” thinking that it would be wise to weigh all the factors before committing. But they would be wrong. As you move up the corporate ladder, most decisions are better made with about three-quarters of the information rather than all available data.
Because the time and money spent in gathering 100% of the data could be costly and not make a material impact on the final decision. At worst, you could miss an important business opportunity or be seen as a roadblock to decisive action.
At the organizational level, successful companies are agile companies. They are constantly monitoring trends and are prepared to make important adjustments as needed in their business strategy to accommodate changing times. If they linger too long over a decision, they may have lost the window of opportunity. The competition may have taken the ball and run with it while the overly conservative company is left on the sidelines.
At the managerial level, there are some decisions that should be made sooner rather than later as a new manager. If you have an underperformer, for instance, don’t delay talking to them. Find out if there is a reason for their poor performance and then deal with it. By waiting until next month to “see how things go,” you lose another month of productivity, delay the solution and risk losing the motivation of other high performers on the team. Or if you have a conflict between two members, it is far better to deal with it directly and soon. Otherwise, a simple misunderstanding could escalate and poison the entire team.
The key that we emphasize in new manager training is to learn how to assess the risk of inaction and additional information gathering.
- What do you stand to lose if you don’t act now?
- What do you stand to gain if you do act now?
- Would your decision change if you gathered more information?
- Is the information of equal importance and urgency?
There is rarely a perfect answer. This is where your new manager training and your experience weigh in. Some decisions are too risky to make without 100% of the information – e.g. decisions that would severely affect the health of the company or the safety of your team. But most decisions can be made according to your best guess with about 75% of the available data.
The best decision makers are those who know what factors matter the most for each situation. If you can gather a good chunk of the data needed and are focused on the right business issues, we say go ahead and decide!
People want decisive leaders.