Saturday, March 16, 2013
Be Decisive and Be Wrong: How to Motivate People
Chairman and CEO at Demand Media
In my last post I talked about the second of 10 Rules I've Learned and Live By to Motivate People and Organizations. Don't multi-task during
conversations, because giving someone your undivided attention will motivate them to share their honest thoughts and their craziest ideas. In that post, I challenged you to avoid multitasking during your own conversations for one week. I'd love to hear how it went. I have read all your comments and love your input. So, here comes rule #3. By the way, it took me years to fully appreciate its importance.
#3: Always take a position on important issues, but be flexible. Yes, like the last two rules it seems simple…but it's not easy to execute.
After almost two decades in business, I am still surprised how much an organization - even if deeply entrepreneurial - needs clear, crisp direction from its leaders on important issues. While we all strive for an open exchange of ideas, people need a defined path or they will wander sideways. Once you've made a decision and clearly laid out the plan to execute against it, your team WILL think MORE freely and directly influence the final path the organization takes. To put it in even simpler terms, even when armed with the most accurate GPS devices, people won't get to their destination if you don't tell them the address.
Imagine telling your organization that the international market represents a huge opportunity for growth. Seems smart and sounds big, but when they
leave the meeting and go back to work, what do they do? What decision did you make about how to take advantage of the opportunity? How do they change their goals and priorities? How did you define success?
Here's what might work better. Tell them that the management team assessed the opportunity in other markets and believes the business can accelerate growth by entering the European market and by establishing a direct presence with offices in three countries. Let them know that you plan to
invest to enter these markets, as well as the specific business results you expect to see (for example, 7.5% of revenues coming from European markets in two years). Then, clearly identify the team you want leading the effort, and ask them to come back with a detailed business plan. You made a decision (entering Europe), were relatively specific (via feet on the ground in three offices), defined the metrics for success, and empowered the team. You were specific, but left room for their own ideas on how to achieve the ultimate goal of driving revenue.
I guarantee you'll see this pay off. The very fact that you were decisive strengthened your credibility in the organization and pushed others to make
decisions and take action. In most cases, that's more important than the specifics of the decisions you're making. People ultimately look to leaders
to make them feel comfortable with what they're doing and where they're going. Indecisiveness makes people uncomfortable.
"Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader." ~ General George S. Patton
Here is the bad news. You may be wrong (in fact, you will definitely be wrong on some piece of every big decision), and you need to be humble
enough to admit it and flexible enough to make another decision to change direction.
Don't mistake being decisive for being rigid. After you set the path, never stop gathering data and never stop being open to being wrong. When new
facts come into the picture, assess them honestly and check your initial thesis. We live in a time of rapid change, unlimited access to data and
evolving business models. Expect your decisions to be influenced by these factors, and as the data changes adjust them.
In my example, imagine that after entering Europe the market economics abroad changed significantly (as compared to just a short-term blip). I
would need to adjust my decision and plan. I would immediately tell the organization that we discovered new data (margins were slimmer than we had
thought) and needed to change the course of action. I might decide to shut it down or, more likely, run European operations remotely from the U.S. and
change the revenue goals. Either way, I would consider the new information and react swiftly and openly. I wouldn't worry about looking "stupid", and
the organization would have more faith in me as a leader for being transparent, flexible and for making another (and a better informed) decision.
Do not be afraid to change your position, if you think it's the right thing for the organization. Let your team know how you were persuaded by new data or better arguments than your own, and then move forward. When people know you are open to other ideas, they will present ideas of their own. That's
when you start hearing "outside of the box" thinking. Make a decision, and be ready to change it. That's how you stay open and transparent, and keep people motivated.
Edited by: Lawyer Asad
Posted by Lawyer Asad at Saturday, March 16, 2013