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  • Writer's pictureTony Richards

How To Improve CEO-Level Decision Making

The amount of information that flows to the CEO position on a daily basis is staggering. Spreadsheets, documents, weblinks, phone calls, texts, and FYI-type messages are a constant flowing river to the Chief Executive. Amid all this data, how does a CEO make the decisions they need to make? Not only that, but every CEO I coach or have coached or even known is very concerned about not only the impact of their decisions but also their overall batting average of how many of those decisions turn out to the correct ones. This deep desire to get it "right" can even prevent them from making any decision at all.

Elite-level performance executives make decisions faster. The unique challenge faced at the CEO position is not typically an intellectual one, it's the sheer volume and speed at which all this is coming at you, which usually slows the entire decision-making process down. Sometimes, the person sending the information to the CEO can't understand why it's taking so long for the "sign-off" and support. They see it as a "no-brainer" while not having the perspective that their decision is simply one of many the CEO is considering. The initiating executive is simply thinking of their own interest and decision, not the whole plethora of decisions.

There are two keys I have experienced that enable CEOs to transform into high-velocity decision-makers with a high degree of success ratio.

Bust down any complex information into its simplest form

Elite-level performance CEOs and those who are shooting for elite-level performance at all positions and levels of their careers move at a faster rate of speed by finding ways to bust the complex into simplicity. They develop the mental models conducive to their industry and their organizations they can use to put sides on the paradigm to reign in uncertainty, take in and process new information, eliminate noise and then enable themselves to make the decision quicker. After all, the more delay that happens, the more and more information and requests for decisions keep piling up.

These mental models help focus decisions on the most important drivers which affect business performance. Using a framework helps speed up decision-making by simplifying the complex while also communicating to the entire organization what is most important in the company, so that not only is the CEO making better decisions but everyone else at all levels are as well. Designing this framework should be fairly simple since who better than the CEO would know what is most important to the entire organization.

Be a voice, not a vote

It is nearly impossible for the CEO to make decisions in a vacuum as the lonely executive who sits at the top of the ivory tower in charge and in control of everything and everyone. The truth is, CEOs and other management positions in the company live and work in the same chaotic world as the rest of us. Constant variables present themselves which modify the system all the time. A wide web of talent, inside and outside the organization, informs and affects every single move the chief executive makes. The most effective decision-makers actively involve others in the decision process. This happens for a couple of reasons.

For one, elite-level performing CEOs get multiple inputs to improve the quality of their decisions and also to reduce the risk of getting it wrong. And second, it helps pave the path for buy-in and execution by helping to instill ownership of the decision by the appropriate stakeholders. That way, when it's time to move on to the execution of the decision, those who have to carry it out become champions for it, not prisoners of it. So, you might be asking, how does a CEO move fast and also at the same time, engage and involve others in the process? You must believe in this principle: Everyone has a voice but not a vote. Elite performing managers at all levels soon learn there is an art to gathering input as part of the decision-making process and at the same time, they do not try to wait for consensus.

Certainly, there is more depth to these two very powerful keys as in today's post I was interested in more of an overview of them as cornerstones of better and faster decision making. What can you add to my ideas? I would love to hear your input in the comments below!

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