Some of the best advice you could ever get (Part 1)
Last week, I had the pleasure to give a keynote presentation to the current graduating cohort of the Founder Institute of Sacramento. I spoke on the best advice that I could give them as budding entrepreneurs.
Coincidentally, this advice is some of the best that I know (and use) for any leadership role.
I’d like to share some of it with you.
For starters, do you know what the number one cause of failed business is? The list of suspects can get quite long with suggestions like:
- Low sales
- Lack of experience
- Unexpected growth
- And so forth…
But I was taught many years ago that the number one reason that businesses fail is poor decision-making.
There is no perfect strategy. In the immortal words of boxer Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
No strategy, no leader, no innovation, and no culture can overcome poor decision-making. One could certainly argue that strategies, leaders, innovation, and culture are intricately connected with decision-making in an almost chicken-and-egg infinite loop, but let’s just pause and focus on the decision-making part for a moment.
Whether you are creating strategy or executing one, decision-making will be essential. What you decide to do when real-life happens creates the succeed-or-fail future of everything else.
I commonly see three areas that consistently drive poor – and great – decision-making. This week, let’s talk about the first one.
If I want to destroy decision-making, if I want to inject chaos, I will remove clarity. I will hide the truth and obscure the reality. Because in the absence of information, people make up their own.
We are funny organisms, us humans. We struggle mightily with the unknown. We would rather create complex narratives that are full of half-truths and outright fallacies than sit and wait for clarity.
The 24-hour news cycle monetizes this. And politicians exploit it. And business leaders are enslaved by it.
But it is amazing how clarity will suddenly settle things down – or even ramp things up. Clarity will shove every half-truth and fallacy to the side.
In business, especially if I want to drive great decision-making, I will drive clarity first.
When people are involved, I will most often focus on two areas: goal clarity and role clarity.
Goal clarity involves making sure that everyone has a solid understanding of what success looks like. This is HUGELY important, because if my definition of success and your definition of success are not the same, every decision we make will create some form of unhealthy division.
When goal clarity is weak, people are:
- pursuing the wrong goals,
- pursuing competing goals,
- or simply not pursuing goals at all.
Every decision and every action will take us further apart. Even if we get along really well.
Eventually, we will be so far apart that even if we want to work together, we will have to use all of our resources just to get back on track – often leaving us fatigued and under-resourced for the next steps.
These are the companies that wound up doing too little, too late. When they finally recognized that they were falling apart, and worked to get back on track, they couldn’t halt their demise. When you peel back their stories, a lack of goal clarity is a constant component.
But then you also find the second component: role clarity. Or rather, a lack of it.
Role clarity means that everyone knows their role AND their teammates’ roles. They know how to stay in their own swim lane and how to tell if someone is (or isn’t) in theirs.
When role clarity is weak, people are:
- doing the wrong job,
- redoing someone else’s job,
- or undoing someone else’s job.
Because even when you have goal clarity, you have to have healthy teaming to drive great decision-making. Otherwise, processes won’t work, structures will fail, and the interpersonal junk will explode all over the place.
Can you see how clarity will drive decision-making?
Mirror moment #1: How healthy is decision-making in your business? Are people able to respond to real-time obstacles in a way that protects the vision and accomplishes the long-term? Is the topic of decision-making a sore spot– or cause for celebration (with a high level of organizational visibility)?
Mirror moment #2: How much clarity is in your business? Are goals clear and aligned across the whole team? And are roles unhealthy and haphazard– or healthy and strong (with a high level of personal accountability)?
Your answers matter – for your sanity and your team’s.
I mua. Onward and upward.
By Tim Ohai
P.S. If you liked this post, please share it. People can subscribe to this blog here. Thanks!