As a strategic marketing consultant one of the most important things I can offer clients is my advice. Sometimes clients take that advice and other times they don’t. It would be easy to sit back and let advice be ignored. I could shrug my shoulders and move on to the next project. But my self-professed type A personality doesn’t enjoy the easy route. I hate watching avoidable mistakes being made.
My quest to drive good decision-making started long before I began my own consulting practice. It started early in my career. Like many young professionals eager to advance I operated in a constant state of urgent. Every request I made, every program I ran, every question I asked needed a response, and it needed it now. I learned that driving hard got things done. It also got me assigned to more difficult projects!
Once the aura of youthful enthusiasm wore off and I found myself with more complex responsibilities it became clear I needed to modulate my approach. I had to learn when to push back when decisions I disagreed with were about to be made and when to walk away. I’ve since spent more than a decade perfecting that skill.
After lots of experimentation I learned there are three times when you should almost always push back on poor decision-making.
1. Fear based decisions – If your peer is making a decision based on fear and not facts, push back. All too often people are afraid to take a chance. They operate in a worst-case scenario mindset that stagnates the business and stifles creativity. Never let fear drive decision-making. (Unless of course you are considering jumping out of an airplane.)
2. Head in the sand thinking – Has your decision maker ignored important considerations? If so, throw down the yellow penalty flag. It’s our job to insure decisions are made purposefully and with all available information. Lay out the consequences of making the wrong decision and educate your decision maker on your train of thought. Twice if that’s necessary. And if that fails, seek advocates in other parts of the business.
3. Default decision-making – Sadly, many of our business decisions are made by default. We decide by not making an active decision. It’s our obligation to make sure we don’t miss a window of opportunity simply because we didn’t take time to consider our options.
Just like there are important drivers to push back on bad decisions. There are some important times when accepting “bad” decisions is the right course of action.
- Will the person making the decision learn something important by making a mistake without causing irreversible and significant damage to the business? If the answer is yes, let them make a bad decision.
- Is the logic behind the “no” sound? While your gut might be screaming that the decision is wrong, sound logic should not be ignored. None of us has a crystal ball – we must trust the data we have and the collective experience of our team.
- Do you lack conviction in your recommendation? If you are operating on incomplete information, or outside your domain expertise, think hard before pushing back on the decision maker.
The next time you offer advice. Take the time to consider how hard to push. It could be the difference between growth and stagnation.