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4 Questions To Help You Make A Tough Decision

When I was working at SC Johnson, one of my managers had a marvelous way of making hard decisions seem easy. I didn’t always agree with those decisions, but I had to respect her ability to make them consistently and with confidence.

One day, I asked her if there was anything special she did in order to work through her toughest decisions. She said that she always asked herself the following four questions:

  • Is it the “right thing” to do for the person / am I being fair to the people impacted by it?

  • Is it the “right thing" to do for my organization?

  • Is the “right thing" to do for the community we serve?

  • Does it "feel right "to me?

It’s not about treating everyone the same. Are you being fair to people? Fairness can be more important than equality and there’s a difference.

A person can be a terrific individual worker, even a "rainmaker"

…so why would they possibly be fired? Because that person isn’t a team player. Is it right for the person that he was fired? No. But was it the right thing to do for the organization? Yes.

After you work through these four questions, it’s not enough to make the decision. You need to tell them why you’re making it: “George, you’re a fantastic worker but you can’t work well with others and we’ve given you the opportunity to change this behavior. Nothing has improved and some situations have escalated to the point of being so toxic to the environment here that we have to make a change.”

The organization has been more than fair to George. Terminating his employment when he didn’t change was the right and fair thing to do.

If you think back to the Tylenol cyanide crisis in the 1980’s, whether managers knew it or not, they worked through the four questions when deciding whether to pull the product off the shelves. It seems so obvious to us now. But back then, they had to ask if it was right for the people impacted by it, the company, the community, etc. In that sense, when you get a variety of “yes” answers right after another to each question, it’s a no-brainer.

Another simple tactic is the “Front Page Sniff Test”: If your decision were published on the front page of a newspaper, would you be proud to stand by it? Or sheepish and embarrassed? If you wouldn’t want it published, that may be a very good indication about the right way to go.

This compares so much more favorably to the manager who faces “paralysis by analysis” and can’t get anything done. He or she just analyzes things to death in the name of gathering more information so they can feel like they’re moving forward when they’re often just kidding themselves. That’s not a confidence builder.

Many companies think that if it’s a decision made in the best interests of that company, it’s the right answer. But they neglect to ask if it’s right for the community and at times will get themselves into trouble. We’ve seen companies follow their values that they feel are right in making decisions but the community disagrees. That’s a big “no” to one of the four questions that shouldn’t have been ignored.

In our Move The Needle planning process at Value Drivers, we don’t always give the client our opinion on everything. Sometimes we put it back on them by asking these four questions for them to work through. Of course, even when you find greater clarity on your objectives, goals, strategies and measures, organizations like yours may still need a lot of help to implement the plan ahead – since this is the toughest part of the process, Value Drivers is right by your side to ensure you see the plan through, holding your management team accountable to commitments and tracking your progress. Want to learn more? Contact Value Drivers today at 312.827.2643.

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