In 1993, Samsung was not yet the giant we know today.
To expand internationally, Samsung had to change a notoriously inward-looking culture. And this took a bold move from Samsung’s CEO. He sent his best young employees all over the globe to understand the various cultures, network for the right connections, and position Samsung’s products on the international scene.
Intimidating? Executives make impactful decisions on the spot every day.
It’s true that better, faster decisions require insight, a cool mind and the ability to set procrastination aside. And you can learn to do exactly the same.
Here are 6 powerful rules from executives to make impactful decisions.
1. Executives deal with procrastination head on
We’ve all experienced the frustration of a boss who procrastinates over decision making.
Fear of failure is real for everyone – we’re humans after all – and there are reasons why you can’t make a decision. Executives know that several small decision points may be needed to make impactful decisions that stay aligned with their strategy. So they look at each small decision point as a building block.
But this does not mean that you need to keep pushing into a path that might be wrong! If you need to adjust, you make that decision when you have enough data points to assess if a change is needed. And there’s a name for it: pivoting.
2. Executives rely on data points
One thing I’ve seen my mentees do (countless times) is push into a full detailed analysis before they make impactful decisions. Of course, we all want to take risks safely. But a decision without solid data points is merely prediction.
In a world where iteration is the norm, an executive will try to connect various data points intelligently, rather than explore the full theory of everything.
Try this experiment: observe all the small decisions you make in the course of a week, and reflect on what is really critical or not. What are the main data points you use? Do you need to collect or connect? How far do you need to go: 1 mile deep, or 1 mile wide? Can you move forward with 70% of the answer and then iterate?
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3. Executives never lose sight of the big picture
Your decision will have an impact. But on what? Where? What are the pros/cons of each solution (time, money, effort, involvement of others, short v. long term benefits…)?
Executives know there’s rarely one single answer to a problem. That’s why they love being presented with options.
If you really want to make a difference, try this exercise:
Write each option on a large piece of paper. Then draw a circle around each option, and another circle around, and another one. Then, fill in the empty circles with what your option could impact. What goes in the first, second, third circle?
Now, look at your circles. Where are the low and high impact points? Any common themes? What do you need to explore before you make your decision?
4. Executives involve others
The biggest trap a leader can fall into is to make decisions in isolation, relying on assumptions.
But you lead teams through trust, right? Do you ask your team members to give you another perspective on specific aspects of the problem or solution? Can you reach out to your mentor or sponsor? Can you enrich your options by seeking a second opinion before you make an impactful decision?
It is never a waste of time to get a sanity check if it uncovers something you missed in the first place!
5. Executives check in their emotions
Have you heard of the 10/10/10 rule?
It’s simple. When you need to make your final call, ask yourself: how will I feel about it 10 min / months / years from now?
Emotions influence our decisions. So get some perspective on the long term, look beyond the immediate step and see clearly how impactful you decision really is.
6. Executives love mental models
Executives, who need to act quickly and with minimum data, structure their ideas with mental models. Present something to your COO or CEO, and you can expect to get one of the following questions back:
- What is the 20% that will give 80% results? (Pareto’s law)
- Is it urgent/important? (Eisenhower’s matrix)
- How much effort v. how much time it will take? (Parkinson’s law)
Mental models help you make hard decisions easier and deepen your thinking at the same time. Keep them in mind when you do a final scan of any decision you reach.
Making impactful decisions with accuracy and speed is a skill you can train for throughout your lifetime. The best leaders make decisions differently because they see the big picture with a few main data points and let go of the 10% of perfection.
But their main trick is to decide what makes sense for the next step, and pivot as soon as they need to revisit their plans. Magic? Not really, just clarity, the ability to focus their mind, and a good dose of self-confidence.