I love this cartoon.  It sums up my experience in working with CEOs for the past 40+ years.  No, most of them do not lack this kind of self-confidence in front of their management team; however, every one admits he/she does not have all the answers.

As Chief Executive Officer, President, Owner, you are tasked with making all of the key decisions in your company.  It is lonely at the top.  How do you do it?  Do you have a mentor, board of advisors, involve your team, or do you go by your gut instincts?  Perhaps a combination of the above?  How is it working for you?

Mentor – Many company owners have a mentor, someone they trust who has business experience and is willing to share what they learned.  These people are invaluable.  You can learn from their successes and their failures.  If you don’t have one who do you know that can be your mentor or refer you to one?

Peer Groups – I know the members of the CEO Advisory Boards that I lead feel that participating in peer group discussions helps them sort out the things they should NOT consider.   By bringing their issue to the group it makes them verbalize the issue rather than just thinking about it.  There is something about having to explain a problem to someone else that helps you clarify the problem in your own mind.  And getting feedback from others who have “been there done that” is invaluable so you don’t make the mistakes they did.  If you can, surround yourself with a peer group of confidential advisors (take a look at the CEO Advisory Board tab on this website for more information about peer groups).

Your Team – As mentioned in a previous blog you are the visionary of the company.  You are responsible for keeping the vision visible to all your employees.  However, it doesn’t mean that you have to make ALL of the decisions.  In fact there are many decisions that your direct reports should be making on their own.  Isn’t that the reason you hired them?  Please don’t tell me you need to approve every decision they make!  What I am suggesting is that you can use your management team meetings to make decisions as a group.  This creates “buy-in” by everyone so that they have their own “handprint” on the decision.  They can’t blame you for making the wrong decision when they agreed to it as a team.  And, yes, there will be times when they are split and you will have to make the ultimate decision.

Gut Instincts – A recent article in McKinsey Quarterly (How to test your decision-making instincts) says leaders should trust their gut instincts but after certain considerations.  Our intuition is an accumulation of life experiences, some good some bad.  How can we protect against our bias and make the right decision?  Only after asking ourselves four questions and answering them positively should we proceed with our gut feeling (I will cover this article in more detail in my next blog).

I am curious as to how you make decisions in your company.  What have you found that works and what hasn’t?  This is a community of CEOs so please share your experiences so that we all may learn by commenting on this blog.

Consider Reading This

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell.  A book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant – in the blink of an eye – that actually aren’t as simple as they seem.  Why are some people brilliant decision makers and others not?  Fascinating read.