Effective decision-making –leading in a crisis


The test of leadership comes in many forms. And as the world battles the current pandemic, many leadership skills and styles are being tested. Every move, every decision and every plan counts to either propel a nation, organization or community forward or backward. At the end of the day, no matter the kinds of discussions you have, you must make a decision.

With the ongoing chaos, leaders and managers have had to make life-changing decisions on the go. Presidents and their executive teams are deciding on how to manage millions of people. On the lower levels, business executives are having to make financial decisions and manage their teams on several spectrums. Making a decision can sometimes be as simple as giving a yes or no answer. But more often than not, there are a lot of consequences that force a person to consider in detail whether the decision they are making is right or wrong.

So how do people make decisions? We may assume that logic will prevail when we have to make a choice. We sit down to sometimes outline carefully what are options or alternatives are. We look at the pros and cons, and then choose. It may seem that simple, but it is not. Think back to the last time you went shopping. You walked in with the intention to buy a specific item. But on your way, something else caught you attention. A colourful bag or a fancy watch maybe? The item had been on your list for a long time, so you decided that today was the day to get it. Your decision was not logical. You may have needed the item, but your emotions influenced your purchase.

Following all the news about the current pandemic, I noticed how different leaders are making decisions. Some are solely based on logic; others are emotional and many others a mix of both. Why have some leaders chosen to lift lockdown that many have argued to be premature? Why are hospital heads choosing to save some age groups and leaving others to die? Why are others waiting for more information to make a choice? In uncertain times, what you decide matters. A simple choice can start the journey of a very bright future or mar it for the next couple of months.

In my research, I came across some thoughts on leadership decisions in the Harvard Business Review. It was mentioned that effective decision making has no hard and straight formula. Leaders must realize when to apply existing principles that have been tried and tested. In other cases, they must be pragmatic by looking at the merits of the case at hand. Good leaders know that decision making is not a matter of right or wrong. It is about what may be best suited as a solution given the circumstances and consequences to be suffered. “Unless a decision has degenerated into work, it is not a decision; it is at best a good intention. This means that, while the effective decision itself is based on the highest level of conceptual understanding, the action commitment should be as close as possible to the capacities of the people who have to carry it out. Above all, effective executives know that decision making has its own systematic process and its own clearly defined elements.”

A quick survey showed that before making decisions, there are basic questions to ask. If the decision-making process is not solely reliant on you, involve your team in this exercise. Identifying what situation is calling for a decision is important to making a good decision. So, ask yourself why you need to make a decision. Follow through by finding out what this decision will allow you to achieve. What problem is this decision meant to solve. How will things evolve after you make this decision? What consequences may you suffer or benefit from? Remember once again that it is not a wrong or right situation. It is about finding a solution that is best suited for the challenge you are facing.

To bring some order in the discussion process, you may use the “fish bowl technique”. Better evaluation.org states that “Fishbowls are useful for ventilating “hot topics” or sharing ideas or information from a variety of perspectives. When the people in the middle are public officials or other decision-makers, this technique can help bring transparency to the decision-making process and increase trust and understanding about complex issues.

A McKinsey and company article in 2020 gives more insight on how to practically use this technique: Specifically, leaders can use a so-called fishbowl model in which decision makers and key experts sit around a table—or virtual table—to make a decision (exhibit). At the table are one or two decision-makers, multiple experts, and one or two “empty seats” for other relevant stakeholders in the gallery to rotate in as they have points to share. A majority of stakeholders observes the meeting, which builds understanding without having to make an extra communication step afterward. In an in-person meeting, stakeholders watching the fishbowl can contribute information and ideas by temporarily taking one of the empty seats, briefly participating in the meeting, and then returning to the gallery. In a virtual meeting, the stakeholders are on mute but can participate by “raising their hand,” with a moderator inviting them in and unmuting them.

Your decisions must be bold, intentional and backed by good reason. As a leader or business executive, one of your major responsibilities is to make a decision. Do not be afraid to make it! As Brittany Murphy put it, “Life presents you with so many decisions. A lot of times, they’re right in front of your face and they’re really difficult, but we must make them.”

Often times, we may feel overwhelmed by the pressure to make a decision. But in the midst of the chaos, we must slow down our own minds to make effective decisions. If we are in the middle of the chaos, we can choose to step back for a few minutes and gather our thoughts. Psychology Today in an article shares a 2013 study that found that 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help people make smarter choices. The findings from the Wharton School of business were published in the journal Psychological Science. A series of studies led by Andrew Hafenbrack found that mindfulness helped counteract deep-rooted tendencies and lead to better decision-making. The researchers found that a brief period of mindfulness allowed people to make more rational decisions by considering the information available in the present moment, which led to more positive outcomes in the future.

The second thing you can do is to make the small choices count. Sometimes, big challenges require simple, strategic small choices. Little things can make a difference so do not despise them. One time, I had one of my team members come to me feeling overwhelmed and afraid. A client had called quite furious and had blurted out several threats. We were on the verge of losing this client and it would have been a terrible loss. I calmed my employee down, picked up the phone and listened to my client. After about 20 minutes, she was done venting. I had listened carefully to find out what exactly her challenge was about, issued out and apology and went ahead to give her an immediate solution. The truth is, even in a crisis, the challenge can be a simple one clouded by a lot of noise. You must find what the core or epicenter of the challenge is, and make a small decision to slow it down.

Currently, this tactic is being applied to flatten the curve in the incidence of cases with the pandemic. Scientists realized that since the virus could be spread through human contact, the immediate and quickest decisions was to limit human movement and get people to stay at home while they buy time to find treatment and a vaccine. Yes, it did not thoroughly solve the problem but the impact of that decision has saved many lives and communities and prevented greater financial losses that had been anticipated.

Since the leader is at the center of it all, the kind of leader matters. “Leaders with the right temperament and character are necessary during times of uncertainty. They stay curious and flexible but can still make the tough calls, even if that makes them unpopular. They gather differing perspectives and then make the decisions, with the best interests of the organization (not their careers) in mind, without needing a full consensus. For decisions within their delegated authority, they escalate only the trickiest problems for input or approval. In wartime, you want a Winston Churchill, not a Neville Chamberlain.” – McKinsey & Company, 2020. Now ask yourself, are you a Winston or are you a Neville? Do not run away from the crisis, instead, take it up as an opportunity to learn. Every opportunity presents a chance to learn.

So how does one make an effective decision? By simply choosing to make one without the fear of being right or wrong, with the best intentions, with practical, realistic plans set in place to back the choice and after consulting trusted voices and experts on the matter. It is not easy but it can be done. As a political leader, a business leader or a family leader, do not wait or run. Be guided and make that decision now!

Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?


Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach

Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.

A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.

She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.

Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.

She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.

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