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Consider the following list (from here) of "top 10" manager behaviors:

The 10 Oxygen behaviors of Google's best managers

  • Is a good coach
  • Empowers team and does not micromanage
  • Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  • Is productive and results-oriented
  • Is a good communicator — listens and shares information
  • Supports career development and discusses performance
  • Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  • Has key technical skills to help advise the team
  • Collaborates across Google
  • Is a strong decision maker

What does it mean to be a "strong" decision maker? More practically, what steps can a manager actually take (per decision or in general) to become one?

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    How can we suggest what you should improve? You don’t list your weaknesses and, if you did, you would have your answer.
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 18, 2020 at 5:51
  • 1
    Just search on your favurite search engine: "strong decision maker". You will have more answers than you care to read.
    – virolino
    Jun 18, 2020 at 6:01

2 Answers 2

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A strong decision is a clear and actionable decision, that produces a set of outcomes in a particular organizational context. It's not necessarily a good decision, although that would be ideal.

Steps for making a strong decision

  1. Collect information - this could involve conversations with stakeholders or experts, or research in the moment. It can also include the decision maker's own experience, which is information collected and internalized over time.
  2. Make the decision - Imagine coming to a fork in the road - are you turning left or right? It's a false dichotomy, because there are more options. You could also plow off the road for example, or you could just stay where you are. This last option looks like failure to make a decision, but is in fact a decision in and of itself. A strong decision is one affirmatively made, not arrived at via inertia, or stasis. The decision should reflect the information collected earlier, although most decisions won't be clear-cut. There will be unknowns. Strong decisions must also produce outcomes, the more specific and measurable the better. If no one can tell the decision has been made it may as well have not been made. Timeliness is also a factor here.
  3. Communicate the decision and its ramifications - after one makes a decision it needs to be communicated to the people who will carry it out. They need to know but what the decision is, what the envisioned outcomes of the decision are, and what is expected of them pursuant to the decision. Decisions often have trade-offs. Be prepared to address them, but don't dither - this is not a replay of the information collecting step. Again, timeliness is important.
  4. Shepherd the implementation of the decision - decisions often require resources to implement. A strong decision maker needs to make sure those resources, be they employee time, money, access to equipment, etc., are available. If resources aren't available then the decision, while made, won't actually happen. A strong decision is one championed to its logical (but not illogical) endpoint. Correspondingly, decisions which are made but cannot be implemented are weak decisions.

In actual practice one doesn't make a single decision in isolation, but rather a continuous series interconnected of decisions. Maintaining the strength of a series of decisions requires a fifth step, as noted by @JoelEtherton.

  1. Review decision results and implement changes - this step is in some sense a variant of Step 1, in that information is gathered in preparation for another decision. The difference is that here information is being gathered solely about the outcomes of the made decision, by the person who made that decision. This requires a degree of honest self reflection, because it's easy to fall in love with one's own decisions. One must decide if the outcomes of the original decision are satisfactory. If they aren't satisfactory, or even if they're just sub optimal, another decision can be made by beginning back at Step 1. Honest post-facto evaluation of one's own decisions can only strengthen decision-making going forward.
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  • You've missed the final stage - Review results and recommend/implement changes for the next decision. Jun 18, 2020 at 13:37
  • @JoelEtherton good point - I've edited the answer to better reflect that previous decisions feed back into the decision making process. Hopefully the edits address your concerns
    – Greg
    Jun 18, 2020 at 14:25
  • I had already upvoted, and I think the core difference between 5 and 1 is the self-assessment and behavior modification that goes beyond just information collection. Without that critical "retro" behavior, people will think you are not learning from your decisions and that will weaken future decisions in their mind. Jun 18, 2020 at 14:29
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Your team need to have confidence in you - if you appear too dithering, too uncertain or frequently change your mind they may loose faith in your knowledge or your ability to do the job.

You need to make sensible decisions, make them confidently and make them reasonably quickly. That's not to say rush into it - that would be foolish. If you need to, get the right people into a room. Let them talk. Listen. Ask intelligent questions. Take a little time to think over any extra information then make a decision - and stand over it. You should be able to confidently explain why you came to the conclusion you did and why you opted against the alternatives.

Don't worry too much about getting it wrong either. There is always an element of educated guesswork in decision making - occasionally things will go pear-shaped. In these situations it's important to realise nobody can predict exactly what will happen when you pick one course of action over another. (If you could, all decisions would be a no-brainer). What's important is that, when things do take a turn for the worst, you make the best decision you can to tackle that too.

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