ICYMI: Crucial conversations can make or break your business
On my podcast, I’ve been sharing stories behind “crucial conversations” that I’m having with my team each and every day. These are the conversations that level up your team so that you can spend your time doing the more important, value added things for your business. And, I believe these conversations are what separate a successful business leader from an unsuccessful one.
Crucial conversations create little inflection points in your business that put it back on the trajectory you ultimately need to be on, and oftentimes, they are a big learning opportunity for your team.
In my last blog post, I talked about a crucial conversation I had with a team member about the financial impact of taking on a new initiative and new risks, and, this time, I want to talk about how I coach my team to be more effective communicators so we can be more efficient decision makers.
A meeting with no agenda, and a surprise decision
Leading up to this crucial conversation, I’ll admit I made a few mistakes I normally wouldn’t have made, but it ultimately led to a very important crucial conversation for one of my team members (and a very important lesson to share with business owners, too!).
A few weeks ago, one of my team members asked for time on my calendar. While I like to be available to our team when they’re reaching out, I’m usually very good about asking for an agenda or some sort of clarity around what the meeting would be about. But, in this particular case, I accepted the meeting without those key steps. Big mistake, turns out! It had been a few weeks since we’d talked, so I figured it was time to connect. But, little did I know accepting a seemingly simple meeting invitation would turn out like it did.
Within minutes of the meeting starting, I was asked to make a decision. I got some context, but not nearly enough that I needed to make the decision being asked. On top of that, this was not a decision that should have been mine to make. This really threw me off guard, but it got me thinking about two things that I often see business owners face, and I decided to turn it into a learning opportunity.
Lesson #1: You should not do your team members’ jobs
One of the biggest reasons why I think I was put in this situation a few weeks ago was because it wasn’t clear to this team member that this was their decision to make. It’s easy to push decisions off to other people, especially when you’re unsure or not confident in your decision-making skills, but when that happens, it’s important as business owners to correct and coach.
I try to make myself available to the team, but I draw the line at doing their job for them, and decision making for the department that they were hired to run is a part of that. I’m always happy to evaluate a few different solutions — that’s the key, though, they have to be solutions and not problems — with team members as reinforcement, and if the decision affects more than just one team or one department, I do want to be involved in those decisions.
But, presenting some basic context and pulling people in to make decisions who shouldn’t be is where things start to get messy in a business. I see it a lot with the business owners I meet. They pull in their team or even family members and significant others to help make a decision that is literally in their job description to make. And this goes with more junior members of your team, too, which is exactly what I experienced in this recent meeting.
Ultimately, I told this team member, “No.” This was not my decision to make, it was theirs. And, regardless of who owns this decision, something was missing in the delivery of the request.
Lesson #2: Effective communication is a learned skill
While this specific decision was absolutely not mine to make, the way in which this team member asked for my decision was a problem, too, and so another crucial conversation presented itself.
There was absolutely no data given to me. And, if you listen to my podcast or read my blog, you know how I feel about data-driven decision making. It’s absolutely imperative to the success of a business!
This got me thinking about one of the biggest inefficiencies any business can face, and that’s the back-and-forth that happens when decisions are being made across teams and across departments. Whoever is asking me to make a decision doesn’t give me enough data and information to make an informed choice, so I end up going back and forth with this person asking for additional details, which is a waste of time and resources in the long run.
Many business owners and decision makers face this challenge, too, but, luckily it’s fairly easy to fix. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but instead of asking the questions every time you receive a request to make a decision, try telling the team member, “Hey, you didn’t give me enough information here, so next time you need to provide x, y, and z right at the start so that I can give you a quicker decision without the back and forth.”
Most of the time, this fixes the issue, and future communication is much more detailed and effective. Team members can’t read your mind, so it’s important to tell them exactly what you need to get them speedy and thoughtful decisions. And, most of the time, they probably don’t even know they’re being unclear, so as a person in a leadership role, it’s your responsibility to point that out and help them grow.
And, by doing this once, your team learns by example. They learn what a key decision maker needs to make decisions, which makes them better equipped to make decisions without you down the road. It also makes them more effective communicators to their peers and management. One simple coaching moment can turn into some crazy time-saving across the business when delivered correctly.
Coach your team to make decisions how you make decisions
If you’re a business owner or leader, you probably feel pretty confident in your decision-making skills already, but your team may not. That’s why it’s important to coach your team on how you make decisions and be very direct with feedback to help them grow and improve.
Interested in more tips to help your business run as effectively as possible? I tackle topics like this and more on my podcast, Building Billions. Check it out!