Good managers make good decisions. The ability to make good decisions is a necessity for anyone seeking to reach senior management no matter the industry or the firm. Decisions come in all shapes and sizes and often arrive unannounced. They are never an “O.T.O.” [one time only]. There are always decisions that follow decisions.
In my time at Saatchi & Saatchi we had a great discipline for strategic development. We required a one word strategy. Yes, it was difficult at times and there were times when we hyphenated two words to make them appear as one word but the effort was well worth the result. I used that one word discipline when I taught global marketing and global management at Northeastern University. After reviewing the syllabus and answering questions from the students I concluded with the same sentence. “I’m going to give you the strategy for this course and I’m going to do it in one word. The one word: DECISIONS.” Whether the course was a marketing course or a management course the ultimate goal was to convey the importance of decision making and improve the students’ ability to make sound decisions.
We often used cases and in many of the cases the goal was to reach a viable course of action. I learned quickly to not stop at that point but to keep going, just as happens in business. For example, in one class we were trying to select a person to become the president of a company. I asked one of the students to serve as chairman of the company telling her “you will eventually have to make or approve this decision”. We discussed the alternatives and the class narrowed the alternatives to three. I asked the student to make the decision as to which alternative was best. She made her decision. I then brought up all the other decisions that became necessary due to the first decision. Her decision was to select someone from inside the company who had been running a key division of the company. Now we had to replace that person, and so on. In each instance I asked her to make the decision and after she did we moved forward.
After the class she came and spoke to me. She told me “For a while I thought I had done something to upset you. I thought you were picking on me. Then I realized this is what it’s really like in business. Just because you make a decision doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end. There are constant decisions to be made. This is the first class that has given me the perspective of what it must be like to be a CEO. Thank you.” I learned from her and used that technique in every case possible.
The other night I watched a debate on television. A woman made an excellent point in the discussion. She opened up a new line of thought. Then she made a bad decision. She kept talking. She quickly contradicted her original point and it seemed to make her first point weaker. Her first decision was good. It was the decision that followed that undermined her.
Knowing when to remain quiet is a great skill. It’s a powerful form of decision making. In business over the years I sat in meetings and watched countless presenters sell a great idea and then torpedo the idea by needless talk. In most of the cases the unnecessary talk was simply to boost their ego, not sell the idea. The extra talk was a bad decision that ruined a good decision.
One key decision in presenting is knowing when to remain silent, and when to speak. Just because you prepared something does not mean you have to use it. If the sale is made or the point is made …stop.