• open panel

Being the Boss and Making the Decisions



by Kelly Vandever

“I need to shut that noise down now.”

My friend was speaking about one of her employees who’d been speaking up and making suggestions about how to do something at work.

“What? What’s that face you’re making?” she asked.

I’m still not used to the fact that my facial expressions give away the thoughts running through my brain…even though it happens to me all the time.

This friend knows me well. She’s even listened to my Permission to Speak podcast.

So I say, “Well, my podcast and the stuff I write about is focused on helping leaders encourage their employees to speak up.”

“Well, I’m OK if she speaks up. I did ask for her opinion.” She replied. “But once I’ve taken into account her opinion, it’s my decision to make. When the decision is made, the discussion is over.”

Being the Boss and Making Decisions

Being a leader sucks.

You’re accountable for everything that happens under your watch.

Everyone’s got their opinions: subordinates, your bosses, your peers.

But they also don’t have all the information you have.

Even if you welcome another’s input, you can’t make everyone happy. Right?

That’s a lot of stress.

There’s no way to know if you’re really getting it right. But consider these few points as you wrestle with making decisions as a leader.

Set Expectations Upfront

Let employees know how the decision will be made.

Will it be by consensus? Or will you make the call based on their input? Or will the decision be made further up the chain of command? Be clear how the decision will be made.

I used to say to my staff: “I want your input, but I will ultimately make the decision. If the decision is different than your recommendation, most of the time I’ll tell you why I chose a different decision. Occasionally, I may have additional information that I can’t share that influenced the decision. Other times, we may just disagree. As the manager, I’m held responsible so I make the decision that I think is best.”

The point being, I set the expectations up front. Yes, I want their input, but I retain the prerogative to make the decision.

Ask for Input First and Don’t Commit to a Decision Until You Listen to the Input

Ask for input before you make the decision. And definitely ask for input before you express your opinion or indicate what you plan to do.

If you go first, employees may just tell you what they think you want to hear and you won’t get the best information to use in making your decision.

As humans we’re natural problems solvers. You may already know what you want to do. But work hard to keep your mind open so that you factor in other points of view that may have an even better answer.

Be Willing to Change & Admit When You Are Wrong

Once a decision is made, don’t get so married to the decision or to your ego that you’re not willing to change that decision when things don’t work out like you anticipated. Yes, you may hear, “I told you so.” Yes, you may hate to admit you’re wrong. But you prove yourself a much better person when you’re willing to take the hit when you make the wrong choice. (After all, you would take the glory if all had worked out!)

Leaders Are Human, Too

I don’t think less of my friend because she was frustrated with her employee. After all, leaders are human, too.

We want people to speak up. But sometimes we also just want to move on.

But be careful. Imagine how you might feel if you were in their shoes. Don’t squelch their enthusiasm. You’re going to need it later!

Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world. Learn how opening up and speaking practically can bring you better business results. Connect Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her at Kelly.Vandever @ SpeakingPractically.com or tweet her @KellyVandever.