I once took a leadership course at Yale University in the US, which included a series of group exercises that tested our skills.
One of the exercises involved a scenario about a possible dispute that could arise between members of management over a limited number of parking spaces at their workplace. The teacher asked us to find a solution that would satisfy all members of the management.
One of my colleagues instantly responded that, as CEO, he didn’t need to consult with his colleagues; he would make the decision and everyone had to agree.
Factors such as our cultural backgrounds, personalities and the environment in which our companies operate affect decision-making. I witnessed this during the course at Yale and also among my team members.
But if there’s one thing that affects decision makers, regardless of their backgrounds, it’s making the right decision in times of uncertainty.
I can’t remember the number of times in the past two years that my acquaintances and I have discussed making difficult decisions.
As efficient as I was at making decisions, navigating a business during the Covid-19 pandemic slowed my decision-making process.
I would find myself taking a little longer to think through a situation and make the right decision. I would consult more people and conduct additional research.
During these times, I thought even more about how each decision could affect my business, my team, and our overall performance.
I remember how one of my business acquaintances decided to take a year off because she was so overwhelmed with the decision-making process that she thought it was better not to make any decisions and wait for the pandemic to end.
Of course, he had the luxury of being able to put his business on hold, something many business owners can’t afford.
But as I navigated the pandemic, I found that the one thing that helped me get through tough times was thinking about how every decision I make aligns with the mission and vision of my business.
We would begin each decision-making exercise with a series of questions: Is this decision aligned with our mission and goals? How will it affect our team and our customers?
Another helpful approach was making sure we created a culture where employees felt comfortable making suggestions.
We usually hold monthly meetings where everyone is invited and our team can raise questions and suggest ideas.
But my business acquaintances and I realized that not everyone felt comfortable sharing suggestions. Some would feel shy about speaking up in a large group, while others didn’t want to seem like they had a different opinion than their managers and team members.
To receive the best suggestions and make the right decisions, it was necessary to structure spaces where employees felt they could make suggestions without fear of judgment.
This could take different forms, such as an open-door policy where employees could approach business leaders directly, via emails or hold online meetings.
We don’t know what the next few years will bring, but if we establish the right decision-making processes and culture, making the right decisions will be easier.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi.
Updated: 19 September 2022 at 04:00