Why executive decision makers don’t make decisions.

The logic is simple enough. After all, when you’re recruited into a senior decision-making position, it’s only natural you’ll be expected to make decisions. Trouble is, every day managers all over Australia – and the world – struggle to actually do it, putting things off for all manner of reasons and generally erring on the side of procrastination and compromise. Even at a micro level, managerial indecision like this can have a significant impact on the bottom line. But when you extrapolate it to an entire economy, well, the impact is potentially seismic.


One problem. Many causes.

A raft of factors can trigger a lack of confident decision making in a workplace. In some instances, it might be personality related, something which can have ramifications all the way back to your executive recruitment, talent identification and HR processes. While in other situations it can be connected to external forces such as the working environment or corporate culture managers find themselves operating within each day.


While clearly every situation is different, here are some of the more common factors to watch out for if you’re looking to encourage more effective decision-making in your business. It can be particularly important to keep these things in mind when you’re actively looking to recruit new talent through an executive search process.


  • Failing to prioritise or delegate correctly – no matter how good a decision-maker may be, they can’t decide everything every time. Whether it’s done intuitively, or they’ve learned strategies to help them over the years, the most effective managers are typically adept at prioritising what they really need to take care of themselves – and delegating what they don’t to others.


  • Too much information – when we get overloaded it’s easy for our decision making to become bogged down as we struggle to process everything. The reality is too many options and opinions can be just as dangerous as not having enough. While it’s easy to assume that if we go through every conceivable scenario, and leave no stone unturned, we’ll be certain to make the right decision, more often than not we simply become overwhelmed. It’s why one of the greatest managerial skills lies in being able to filter the information you really need from that which is superfluous.


  • Uncertainty – in managerial circles the phrase ‘paralysis by over-analysis’ often draws a chuckle. But make no mistake, it can be crippling commercial problem if left unaddressed. Regardless of the business size or industry, the underlying cause is almost always the same: a lack of confidence and/or clarity within the business. Maybe a manager is fearful of losing his or her job if they make the ‘wrong’ call? Perhaps they don’t feel truly empowered and, as a result, are constantly seeking to second-guess their boss? Or maybe they’re wheel spinning as don’t fully understand the company’s strategy and vision? They’re all paralysing scenarios for a decision maker, slowing down the process at best, grinding it to a complete halt at worst. Uncertainty is the enemy of effective and efficient decision making.


  • The emotion of change – generally speaking, people don’t like change. Yet by its very nature, change is what decision making is all about. Whether it’s implementing new structures, new IT systems, new hires, new suppliers or even a new marketing campaign, the decision-making process is frequently more emotional that it might appear on the surface – both for the person making the decisions and also those who will be affected by them. For some managers this can create a heavy emotional burden which, in turn, can lead to procrastination and/or compromises which may not be in the long-term interests of the business.

Looking to help your managers make more effective decisions? 

Contact ELR Executive on [email protected] or visit our website at www.elr.net.au

Why executive decision makers don”t make decisions

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