Use your “like” scores to make a decision


Most of us have had a situation where we are really not sure which way to go – which choice is best for us in a given moment? Some people ask all their friends and family for advice and then go with the most popular idea that came up. Others do a lot of research and still find themselves unable to make that final decision – option A, B, or C?

I learned this way of making decisions from a manager some years back. He called it a chicken-chart. I really do not know why, but the method has really helped me get clarity about decisions that were hard to make because none of the options were obviously better than another option from my perspective.

Simple steps to help you make decisions

Step 1
  • What is the decision you have to make? Define it clearly. [In the example below the decision would be “Which company does Jack want to work for?”]
  • Then write down the options you are considering. [In the example here: Jack is considering only Company A and Company B – you can put in any names that may be right for your decision]
Step 2
  • Write down a list of the 5 to 7 most important things you want the solution to have. [In the example below Jack cares about a good salary, a good location for the office, the personality of his boss, the % of strategic tasks that he would be able to work on and the Potential impact that his work could have on team success]
  • (see the example being used – a person called Jack is trying to decide whether he wants to work for company A or company B)
Step 3

Decide how much you like each of the criteria you wrote down. If you like it more, put a higher percentage on it (either in a 50% format or a 0.5 format). In the example below, you can see Jack decided that a good salary counts at least 30% towards his decision to work for company A or B.

Step 4

Start recording how much you like all of those aspects for company A. Then do the same for company B. Give each aspect a score between 1 and 5, where 1 is a really bad score and 5 is an excellent score for that company and for that aspect that is important to you.

Step 5

Let’s calculate the weighted score for each line item. It is really simple. It is simply: the weighting x score = weighted score.

Step 6

Now it is time to add up the totals. Get the total for the scores alone and then get the totals for the weighted scores.

Conclusion

If you look at the result from this example you can see that the difference between the total score for Company A (12.5) and the total score for Company B (18) in simple likes or scores is relatively small and if you used those scores to make the decision, you may have doubt about the choice ahead of you. The difference between your score for Company A and Company B is 44%.

If you look at the difference between the total weighted scores for Company A (2.35) and Company B (3.7), you see that the difference is much bigger because it now also includes how much Jack liked each of the criteria that he included in this exercise. In this case, the difference is 57%, which is bigger than the previous difference of 44% (for using only scores alone).

The final decision now seems more logical – to choose for company B because the difference between the two options is bigger – 57%. When you include the level of how much you liked one aspect of your criteria over another one – the difference (in this example) increased and it became much easier to know what to choose!

See it in a video

Choosing between opposites


man on beam final

In many diagnostic tools for leaders and teams there is a scale which indicates how far the leader or the team is on a ladder between two opposite behaviors or style preferences. This could be for example critical evaluation on the one end of the scale and compassionate encouragement on the other side of the scale. (see example below).

These kinds of results are often used to coach and develop leaders and teams towards a desired behavior or culture.  In many cases the distinction between the “right” behavior and the “wrong” behavior is more linked to the situation at hand, associated risks and/or the person you have in front of you than a simplistic view of correct behavior. For example it may be less desirable behavior to be overly critical in an evaluation of someone who is new to the role and the company or team.  In another instance where the risks are high and the people on the team very experienced it may be more appropriate to perform a critical evaluation in the event of a major failure to achieve desired outcomes than to offer supportive encouragement.

blog scale graphic

This leads to the concept of managing or working with both of the ends of a linear scale. Choosing both sides in terms of developing leaders and teams can help them to have a bigger capacity to choose the right response depending on the situation.  The key is to develop awareness in them. Encourage leaders and teams to embrace more than one behavior or style to respond to specific situations or a tasks.

If we go back to the example above. You may be coaching someone or guiding a class of developing leaders through an exercise and this approach may be useful. Ask them to first of all identify the extreme ends of a scale of possibilities. Then identify for both extremes – the possible positive outcomes from that approach and also the possible negative outcomes.

blog polarity awareness

In a class situation you can also assign it as an exercise between two or more people to brainstorm together.

Once the exercise is complete you can lead a discussion with examples from the class or the leader you are coaching. When may it be appropriate to use one or the other behavior for the best outcome?  You can also choose to ask groups that had completed the exercise to prepare a demonstration (role-playing) to show the appropriate way to respond to a situation based on an example they discussed in the group. Or you may choose to provide some case-studies where the leader or class have to identify which may be the best approaches. These practical exercises will further help your participants understand the choices that they have as leaders when facing different situations and how to at least evaluate the best path forward before they go into action.

As a followup action you can ask participants or your coachee to capture examples they come across in the next few weeks/months where they had to make a choice between two opposite approaches and used the exercise above to identify the potential positive and negative outcomes. When using this approach one will will not necessarily avoid mistake or guarantee the most effective approach. The process of pausing and considering options will make the leader or team more effective over time and will improve decision-making.

Some examples you could consider for the exercise above:
  • Working independently vs working in groups/teams
  • People focused vs Task focused
  • Having a structured (fixed) approach vs a creative/open approach
  • Formal vs Informal approach to others
  • Monitoring others closely vs holding them accountable for outcomes created

This approach does not invalidate the tests which offer leaders and teams valuable insights into their own typical approaches and style preferences. This is merely another way to approach the outcomes from those tests to help develop more adaptable leaders and teams, which is highly needed in the current environment where change has become a constant and successfully working across borders, cultures and generations have become essential.

Making Difficult Decisions


Making decisions is a key part of any leader or manager’s day. Most new leaders find this somewhat intimidating. There is the fear of making the wrong decision, the fear of not having enough time to make the decision, the fear of not having enough information to make the decision and the list goes on.

“Every decision has at least a 50% chance of being the wrong one.”

The decisions that leaders make add up to the value that he or she adds to a team or an organization. And yet there are those who say most of our decisions have a 50% chance of being the right choice between two options. They say this to make the point that you can better make a choice and be active in the process than to avoid making a choice or a decision and being reactive.

Competing Benefit decisions
Classic example of trade-off choices

Trade-offs

When it comes to commercial and operational decisions most of the time the difficulty in decision-making lies in the correct trade-off within the benefits triangle (shown to the left).  If you can get the article/outcome within the time-frame that you would like and with the right quality that you would like to have, there may be a high cost trade-off. Similarly you can find yourself having a low cost at the right quality, but you may have to wait longer to receive the outcome or article. Understanding the trade-off as shown in the graphic above may make it easier to decide which of the three are non-negotiable and where a compromise may be appropriate.

Competing values

Another challenging area for decision-making can be competing values. Imagine you value employee development (as a leader or manager) and you also value productivity. Choosing to develop your employees typically means you have to take them away from their daily activities to attend a development or learning event. This implies they are not able to produce the results you need during that time. This kind of choice often comes at the last minute. Imagine you had planned for Employee A to attend a training course, but at the last moment he or she is sick or otherwise unable to attend and HR asks you to nominate a substitute and thereby presents you with a decision-making dilemma.

Competing Values Decisions

The graphic shown the the left illustrates some competing value trade-off decisions that you may be called upon to consider as a leader or manager.  If you have already completed a review of your own values as a leader you may have the advantage of using that as a framework for decision-making.  You would also need to look at the values that the company represent to make sure your trade-off options also include that perspective.

Finally when you do make a decision, be sure to explain your reasoning and make the values you are honoring clear to the impacted employee(s) or colleagues.

Decision-making styles

Decision Making Styles

Leaders and managers also often fall into the trap of trying to use only one decision-making style and they neglect to consider the other options open to them. There is a time and a place for every type of decision-making style.

Sometimes it may be appropriate to make autocratic decisions – this can be useful when the impact is limited, the need is immediate and the risk low of encountering resistance during implementation. At other times a more collaborative and inclusive decision-making process may be appropriate – such as when there are many stakeholders, people need to change their behaviors or work methods, time is on your side etc. Selecting only one decision-making style as a leader can make decisions difficult since you may find you experience a lot of resistance from others to implement your decisions especially if you favor autocratic decision-making most of the time.

The main job of a leader and a manager is to make decisions and choices in order to move projects and initiatives forward. Decisions also impact dealing with risks, unplanned barriers to success, and how to achieve the goals set for organizations and teams. All this, while respecting approval matrices, client satisfaction and the profitability of a project.

Decision-making is a skill that many leaders need help with and being more mindful about their own process for making decisions and understanding options open to decision-makers, is a good start. Work with a coach or trusted advisor if you want to talk through tough choices you need to make – it is a best practice that most successful executives engage in.