Whether you’re an upstart manager or seasoned executive, leaders are expected feel comfortable “making the call.” But decision making is inherently hard—it’s no coincidence that the subject has been dissected by authors and business psychologists for over a century.
So what happens in the not-so-rare instance that a direct report questions the reasoning behind a decision? Leaders with a short temper might have an even shorter answer: “Because I said so."
That approach to leadership isn’t only antiquated, it’s ineffective. To make impactful decisions and earn employee buy-in, you need a different approach.
Nicole Roberts, the VP of human resources at BrightView, believes in the value of humility in leadership. She's written extensively on the subject on her popular blog, HR Without Ego. We sat down with Roberts to talk about decision making, management styles, and more.
How do you balance emotions in your decision making?
Nicole Roberts: I care about people and how my actions affect them. I truly care. But that’s not a weakness. In my opinion, you can’t care too much. You can certainly care too little, but not too much.
However, getting emotionally attached to your “big idea” can cloud the process. Is it really a great idea or do you feel that way because you came up with it? Ask yourself why you aren’t open to the input of others.
But when that "input" does come, what’s the best way to respond?
NR: I put a lot of thought into my decisions. I want to make sure if someone inquires into my decision-making process, I can clearly point to how I got there.
Are you ever tempted to take the easy way out when it comes to explaining your decision?
NR: If the “because I said so” response even started to enter my brain, that tells me that I'm making a decision to make my life or job easier—not my direct reports'. Leadership is selfless. Leadership is finding creative ways to say yes instead of always saying no.
NR: While I put considerable thought into my decisions, they are very rarely absolute. My work is in a state of continuous improvement. Who doesn’t want to be better? Sign me up! I’m constantly reading, listening to podcasts, and seeking feedback to be a better leader, professional, boss, friend, and mother. I want to make good decisions and do the right thing.
Earlier, you mentioned the importance of being emotionally invested in people, not decisions. Are there any examples you’d like to share?
NR: I once had a person on my team who was passionate about her job, but just so happened to have a life outside of work. Naturally, people have “stuff” that comes up in their lives. This rockstar had stuff, and you know what? I let her go handle it.
I certainly could have told her that her personal stuff had nothing to do with her job and made a “because I said so, and I’m your boss” type of decision. No one wins in that scenario. She appreciated being treated with compassion. She worked hard, was loyal, and cared about doing a good job. My hope is that if she is put in that situation in the future with someone on her team, she remembers to offer compassion instead of judgment or criticism.
Telling people to leave their personal life at home is ridiculous and quite frankly impossible, and I’m proud of us as leaders for realizing that.
For other HR professionals looking to adopt a new management style, what advice do you have?
NR:Check your ego, do the right thing, and be kind to one another.
Nora McCarthy is a Corporate Communications Manager at Namely, the HR, payroll, and benefits platform built for today's employees. Connect with Nora and the Namely team on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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