By Evert Akkerman
We usually hear how bad decisions have hurt or sunk a business, but indecision can be just as bad. An indecisive company president or a franchise owner puts an entire organization in limbo, losing agility, speed and competitive edge. The best and brightest often leave, and it’s harder to attract new talent.
People hold off on making decisions due to procrastination, not wanting to choose sides or fear of the fall-out. Others do what they deem popular. If they’re at a training seminar and the speaker says boot camp is best for team building, they book a survival weekend. If they hear on the radio that free coffee ups productivity, they order a coffee machine. If they are at a family BBQ and their brother-in-law had a colonoscopy . . . Think I’m exaggerating? I know an executive who emailed colour pictures of his colonoscopy to his direct reports.
Despite talk of rewarding performance, nurturing talent and boosting morale, many end up in management positions because they’ve put in the time and ‘it’s their turn’. Being great at sales doesn’t make you a great sales manager. Still, executives harbour these illusions and employees harbour the ambitions. As one CEO in my network said, “Having the ambition but not the talent is a big problem.” Once in a seat of power, newly minted supervisors lose themselves in mindless detail, representing a massive misallocation of resources.
Say a service centre manager is paid $75,000 to handle running the centre, customer issues and making sound business decisions based on experience. The assistant manager makes $50,000. If the manager is unwilling or unable to make required decisions, I’d say he/she is overpaid by $25,000.
My grandfather once spoke of a failed car repair shop. The owner knew best, couldn’t let go and wouldn’t let people do their jobs. He spent most of his time under cars doing repairs, while the three hired mechanics stood around.
I knew a GM who complained about her team but refused to go on record at review time. She saw holding people accountable and relaying bad news as HR’s job. Incompetent people stayed on, receiving unearned bonuses, while the GM was paid for decisions she didn’t make.
You have a high degree of control in recruitment and performance management. If decision-making is a key requirement for a new hire, you need to probe at the interview and with references. For tenured or new managers, address and record indecisiveness on performance reviews, creating a record of people not delivering on obligations, listed in up-to-date job descriptions and signed off on by the incumbent.
If someone in a position of responsibility is consistently indecisive and it’s recorded year over year, you build an excellent case for not promoting this person, where indecisiveness would have an even bigger impact. Give the nod to people that have a record of stepping up to the plate and doing what’s right for your organization. Documenting this skill – or the lack thereof – is an effective way to assess and limit the risk to your business.