Decision Making: Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome

Developing people, helping them grow as contributors, and helping them feel pride in their work produces great benefits to your company. Among other things it:

  • Improves productivity,
  • Improves the morale,
  • Reduces turnover, and
  • Deepens and broadens your hiring pool.

Virtually all research into employee turnover reveals that opportunity for development is a key component to reducing turnover and increasing employee satisfaction. You should already be aware those two items greatly affect your costs and productivity.

The term Employee Development covers much ground these days, but today I'd like to focus on a piece of the ground that I rarely hear anyone talk about despite its direct affect on an employee's ability to work effectively.

That issue: Decision Making

Think about it.

Wouldn't you love to have a staff who made their decisions exactly the way you would if you were in their place? Wouldn't you love to have a staff who used their time exactly like you would (after all, time management is a decision)?

The greatest gift you can give your employees is teaching them how to make sound decisions. To do that, you will need to focus on something that may seem foreign to you: the process of decision making.

You see, most people focus on decision outcomes. They pass judgment on someone's decision making ability based on the outcome they witness. Outcomes are very deceiving.

Most people forget that all decisions involve risky trade-offs. Even the slimmest odds occasionally come through. When they do, that doesn't mean the person made a poor decision. It means the person got unlucky.

Let's look at a little example. Assume you are walking down the street and a car is approach from behind.

Where should you be walking? On the sidewalk or in the street?

You've probably heard of the saying "Right place, wrong time." There are four possible combinations of that phrase.

RIGHT PLACE - RIGHT TIME

You are walking on the sidewalk and the car stays on the road. The sidewalk is the Right Place because the car stayed on the road and passed you safely.

RIGHT PLACE - WRONG TIME

You are walking on the sidewalk and the car veers onto the sidewalk and hits you. You were in the right place because the car should not have been up on the sidewalk. But, it was the wrong time to be on the sidewalk.

WRONG PLACE - RIGHT TIME

You are walking in the street and the car veers onto the sidewalk. You are actually walking in the wrong place but picked the right time to do it.

WRONG PLACE - WRONG TIME

You are walking in the street and the car stays on the street and runs you over.

Do you see how this simulates decision making?

The proper decision is the one that will most likely lead to the desired outcome. In this case that would be staying on the sidewalk. Just because you got ran over while on the sidewalk doesn't mean you made a bad decision. You just got unlucky. Good decision (process), bad outcome. It happens.

Let's switch back to developing your employees' decision making skills.

Step One:
Verify they understand the outcomes you want for your company and for them in their role. For example, let them know that meeting the project deadline while performing quality work safely is very important to them, you, and everyone else in your company.

Step Two:
Explain the issues they should consider when making their decision. For example, when they arrive at the end of day yet their work isn't quite finished, teach them how to evaluate the amount of overtime it will take to finish, the amount of time they would lose driving back the next day, and the work scheduled for the following day.

Step Three:
Help them understand the priorities of your company. For example, staying on schedule may be far more important to your business than the cost over-runs associated with unplanned overtime. On the other hand, your clients may be quite flexible with schedule allowing you to focus on minimizing labor costs. Different priorities, different decision.

When helping an employee develop his decision making skills, make sure you ask him about his reasoning before teeing off on a bad outcome resulting from his decision. Our egos are tied to our decision making ability. We all think we make great decisions.

When you chew someone out for a bad outcome without exploring his decision process, you disrespect him, de-motivate him, and teach him to avoid making decisions in the future. Keep this up and you will be micro-managing everybody, fighting high turnover and dealing with upset customers.

Developing your staff's decision making skills may be the greatest you ever give yourself. You will probably sleep better at night; get a lot more done on the job; and create a loyal and hardworking team.

Ron Roberts, The Contractor's Business Coach, teaches contractors how to turn their business into a profit spewing machine. To receive Ron's FREE Contractor Best Practices Newsletter visit www.FilthyRichContractor.com.

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