In my last post, I outlined the biggest obstacles we face when we have to make a tough decision (click here if you haven’t read that one yet). This is also a follow-up to the piece I wrote for APeeling Magazine; if you’d like to read the original piece, click here.
Knowing what’s holding you back from making a big decision is half the battle – but it’s only the first half. It helps to give you clarity and insight, and to move past any emotional or tangible roadblocks you may be facing. Now that you know what’s holding you back, your next task is to actually make the decision, and that’s where it can be tricky.
Today, I’m sharing my top strategies for making decisions when there isn’t a clearly “right” answer. I have used these strategies to set business goals, make decisions that would move my company forward, and even to make challenging personal decisions. Maybe one of these strategies will help you in a similar situation – make sure to bookmark this page so you can come back to it when you’ve got to make a big decision.
Strategies to Help You Make Better Decisions
The Stair-Step Method
This one is for a decision where there are multiple options, and you’re not sure how to choose between so many possibilities. For this strategy, make a list of your options and number them in order. The trick is, instead of trying to look at every possibility all together, you’re going to narrow it down one pair at a time. Look only at choice #1 and choice #2. Pick the best option JUST between those two. Now, put the winner of that contest up against choice #3, and pick the best option only between those two. Repeat this process until you reach the bottom of your list. The winner of the final 1-on-1 contest is the choice you’re going to pick. (Note: you don’t go back through the list and pair them up differently a second time; you get to the bottom and that’s it. Like a sports bracket, there’s one clear winner, and the match-ups don’t get shuffled around after the final game.)
Beyond the Pros and Cons
Chances are, if you’ve been stuck on a decision for any length of time, you’ve probably already tried making a pro/con list, and you still don’t have enough clarity to make the decision. If you’re trying to make a “yes or no” decision, try this strategy instead, which is a twist on the classic pro vs. con list. Divide your paper into four sections and label them like so: pro/want, pro/need, con/want, and con/need. Now, you still brainstorm a list of pros and cons, but you associate each one with something you want or something you need. This can be especially helpful if you’re making a decision that involves doing something difficult that you don’t really want to do, but you know it will move you forward. Breaking the pros and cons up into four different categories can give you clarity on the strongest options between them, and can also help you see if you’re holding yourself back from a decision because it isn’t really what you want to do.
Short vs. Long Term
Use this strategy when you’re choosing between two options that have a lot in common. The similarity between them is likely what’s holding you back from picking one in the first place, so this strategy can really help with that. For each option, make a list of short-term wins and long-term wins if you were to choose that option. When you compare them side-by-side, it can be easier to see the overall benefit of each choice. Do you really need a short-term win in order to get over an immediate hurdle, or will your business benefit overall if you play the long game and wait for a win that takes more time? As you’re evaluating the options, ask yourself: will you be glad you made this choice in 3 months, 6 months, a year? The phrase I use is: Will Tomorrow Me thank Today Me for this decision? This can help you really weigh the options and make the best choice.
If you’re still struggling, you may be putting far too much emphasis on one single decision. In almost every situation, you will have an opportunity to choose differently at some point in the future. There will likely be a cost – of time, money, or opportunity – but there will be a time when you can reverse a decision or take a different path. It’s very rare that a decision is both life-changing AND permanent, but sometimes it can feel that way in the moment.
If you struggle with making decisions, adding these strategies to your toolkit should help you make confident choices to move your business forward. If you still need some help, sometimes the best thing you can do is bring in an outside perspective; someone else who isn’t emotionally attached to the outcome of your decision can bring clarity to the situation that you may not be able to find on your own. If you’d like some help with your decision-making, click here to book a 1-on-1 coaching session with me. Let’s tackle this problem together!
Recently I wrote an article for APeeling Magazine about how to get out of your head when you’re faced with an important decision. Today I’m sharing some similar ideas, but if you’d like to read the original article, click here.
I’ll bet if I asked you to track all the decisions you make in any given week, the number would easily be in the double digits. And that isn’t counting all simple, mundane decisions we make every day. As the CEO of a company, some of the decisions you make are small and simple – there’s an obviously right choice, and it only takes a few minutes of your time. However, there are also those other decisions, the ones that carry more weight or don’t have an obviously right answer, that tend to suck away all of your time and energy for longer than you’d like. If you’ve ever been lost in the weeds of making an important decision, today’s post is for you.
Chances are your decision-making struggle is caused by one or more of the following scenarios:
In this situation, you’re struggling to make a decision based on what other people think you should be doing, or your perception of what others will think. If there’s outside pressure pushing you in a certain direction, but your inner voice is telling you that’s not the right solution, it causes conflict. How much easier would life be if we could reject the idea of outside pressure, and just make decisions based on trusting our gut or knowing what we want? Unfortunately, most of us do struggle to meet outside expectations, so this can be a very real problem.
Want vs. Should
You may be struggling because there’s something you know you should do, but you really don’t want to do it. Or vice versa – there’s something you want to do, but it feels like something you shouldn’t be spending your time on. This might be a “suck it up” moment where you really just have to bite the bullet and do the unpleasant thing, even if it isn’t fun or exciting.
Feelings vs. Facts
In this scenario, chances are you know what you need to do, but you’re afraid of hurting someone else’s feelings by making this choice. A similar situation is one where you don’t want to have to inconvenience anyone else to make this decision possible, so you’re afraid to ask them for help. It might help to think about what you’re losing by not making this choice, or what you would lose if you didn’t ask for the help. It can help to have data to help you make the choice that will involve a difficult conversation.
Sometimes a decision is really hard because it’s either a decision between two good choices or between two bad choices. If you can only choose one thing out of two great options, it can be hard to pick one because you’ve got a fear of missing out on the other option. Conversely, if you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place, neither option feels very appealing. In this case, you probably have to go with what feels the most right (or the least wrong), and just move on.
Alignment with Your Goals
Maybe what’s holding you back from making a decision is that somewhere, your gut is telling you that this decision isn’t really in line with what you need to be working on right now. If you’ve been following a system of setting goals in your business, is this decision going to bring you closer to your current goal, or distract you from it? If you’ve been feeling reluctant but you aren’t sure why, check in with yourself and your goals to see if this decision is truly in alignment with where you should be focusing right now.
Usually, the things that hold you back from making a quick decision are somewhat intertwined. Chances are, you’re actually dealing with more than one of these scenarios at once. The biggest obstacle is identifying what holds you back; once you can do that, it becomes a lot easier to find a solution and move forward.
The next time you’re stuck in the middle of a choice that’s too difficult for you, try identifying what’s holding you back and acknowledging the problem first. Then, make a list of your options so that you can evaluate them and pick the one that’s best for you. As the CEO of your company, you have to hold yourself accountable to making the best decisions that you can, given the tools and resources at your disposal. It isn’t always easy or fun, but it’s necessary if you want to keep moving forward in your business.
If you need some help identifying the greatest area of need in your business, the GEARS assessment can help! Click here to take this free assessment to determine the strengths and weaknesses in your business, so that you can choose the best options to focus your time and energy on for the upcoming quarter.
How many times have you set a goal, personally or professionally, and then felt frustrated when you weren’t able to reach it? Maybe you were really enthusiastic at the beginning, but you lost interest over time. Maybe the goal felt attainable when you set it, but then you just never seemed to get close to actually reaching it.
If you’ve been struggling to reach your goals, chances are it’s because you’re skipping a very important step. Instead of starting the goal-setting process by looking forward to what you hope to reach, instead you need to start by looking back.
My coaching clients and I start our quarterly goal sessions with a thorough, all-day review. After all, you can’t choose where to go next if you haven’t stopped to look around and assess where you are now.
This is the process we follow:
Start by recording your wins for the prior quarter. No matter how bad you think the last three months were, there are always some wins to be recognized. This sets a positive tone and helps you focus on how to do more of what you and your business does best. Then identify a few key challenges and roadblocks that need to be addressed going forward. Finally, take a few minutes to note any important observations as these can be extremely valuable later in the process.
2: Financial Assessment
Start by looking at your numbers at a higher level than what you do every month, so you don’t get too caught in the weeds. Look at what IS, not what you think might be, using real numbers and real results. Look at sales, customers or clients, income, or whatever other financial metric you think would be valuable to track. Write down where you are for the previous quarter.
3: GEARS Assessment
My coaching clients use my free GEARS assessment to help them get focused on the most important aspects of their business every quarter. We examine goods & services, effective leadership, accountability, resources, and systems together. We also check in on sales and marketing during this time. (Want a free copy of my GEARS assessment to use in your own review? Click here!)
4: Personnel Assessment
In your company, are the right people doing the right job in the right way with the right attitude? If not, then what needs to be fixed or changed? Do you need to let someone go, move someone, find someone new? This may be the most difficult part of the process, especially if you have worked with your people for any length of time, but it’s only through asking ourselves tough questions like these that we are able to move forward.
Time to review & assess.
Once you have completed an extensive review, it’s time to look at what you just outlined: what is your review telling you? Are there areas that stick out as being high-need scenarios? Is there anything that surprises you about the information you gathered? Where should you go next, based on what you’ve found?
- Write down what you have done really well, that you want to continue into the next quarter.
- Now note that area of the highest need for improvement.
- Write down the area that you’re most enthusiastic about working on in the future.
- Write down any big “emergency” problems that need your attention immediately.
Be honest with yourself at this stage, and use the real data from your review to help you take your notes. You’ll probably discover through this process that in some areas, you’re doing better than you thought you were. In others, there may be problems you weren’t aware of until you did this review. That’s why it’s so important to look at actual data and not base your goal-setting off assumptions or memory.
For my entire life as an entrepreneur, one thing that I really geek out over is quarterly review & planning sessions. I just love the clarity I find in these sessions that helps me take an honest look at where I’ve been, the momentum it builds to set goals for my future, and the security of knowing I have a solid plan to carry me forward for the next three months.
Since this has been one of my favorite topics for years, I’ve written quite a lot of information about it! So today I’m rounding up some of my favorite posts, in the hopes that they might inspire you to find some motivation around your own quarterly planning.
Want some advice and tips for quarterly planning? Check out these posts…
If you want to DIY a quarterly planning process for yourself, these resources should be pretty useful to you in that process. However, if you’re looking for something a little more useful, I’d love to invite you to join me for the Quarterly Tune Up.
The Quarterly Tune Up is my goal-setting program for successful CEOs and entrepreneurs who want to…
- get clear on where they’ve been and face the facts of their current business situation.
- use a customizable system to set goals that are authentic to their own needs and dreams.
- have the support and inspiration that comes from brainstorming with like-minded entrepreneurs and surround themselves with others who totally “get it.”
- hold themselves accountable with as much or as little pressure as they need from an outside source in order to take the action required to achieve their goals.
- carve out time each quarter to work on their business goals and take the regular action required to get to the next level.
Interested in how Quarterly Planning can help you achieve the goals you have for your business? Join us April 6th & 7th, 2022, for the Quarterly Tune-Up!
Do you ever finish out your work day and wonder where the time went? Do you feel like you’re not really accomplishing very much, even though you’re working all day? Chances are you’re losing crucial time in your business trying to do too many different tasks, or manage too many different people. A solution for this problem is to create an accountability chart for your business.
An accountability chart is like an organizational chart, but with one key difference: an accountability chart focuses on what people are going to be accountable for rather than just listing their job description. I would love to take credit for this idea, but the first time I was exposed to it was in the book Traction by Gino Wickman.
Creating an accountability chart will help you get clarity on who’s doing what, but also help you step back and take accountability only for the tasks you’re supposed to be handling as the CEO. For everything else, your only job is to hold your people accountable for what they owe you.
How to Create an Accountability Chart in Your Business
Step 1: List the tasks that must be completed in order to run your business.
You can group these into different areas, but don’t let yourself get boxed into existing job descriptions or the people who are currently working for you. Think only about the actual tasks that need to go on somebody’s To Do list in order for your business to keep running every day. List them all.
Step 2: Group those tasks into roles.
Think about the most logical way to combine those tasks into roles, or job descriptions. No matter how you’ve done it in the past, this is a chance to invent the best practices that will carry your business forward. If someone is doing Task A, which other tasks are the most logical for them to take on as part of their role in your company?
Step 3: Define the accountability for each role.
What is the deliverable outcome for each job description? What will that person need to be accountable for producing as they complete those tasks? You may also want to use this step to put a time frame on this accountability: how frequently do these tasks need to be completed for maximum results? Is there any flexibility on this, depending on the person you eventually hire to fill this role?
Step 4: Determine the number of hours or people needed to fill this role.
It’s only natural that the roles you have in your business will grow as your business does, but think about right now: how many hours per day or week would it take someone to fulfill the duties of each role? Chances are, when you’re just starting out, one person (maybe even you) can take on several roles at once. It’s still important to define them as separate roles, though, so that as the business grows that person can pass off some roles to other people and fill more of their time doing fewer jobs.
Step 5: What is the appropriate accountability structure?
This is where the accountability chart starts to look more like an organizational chart. A Chief Financial Officer role may also be accountable for ensuring the roles of Bookkeeping and Payroll Tax Preparation are being fulfilled. And right now, those roles all may be the same person. However, as your business grows, those roles may be taken over by other people. Keep in mind, we are designing for the future, not just the present.
Step 6: Share as needed.
Everyone who works for you doesn’t need a detailed job description for every other person in the business, but they do need at least a baseline of information. If I’m your employee, I need to know my own job in pretty strong detail so that I make sure to complete my tasks and maintain the things I’m accountable for. I also need to know who I report to with questions, problems, and results. For everyone else in the business, I just need to have a basic idea of their role so that if an item comes across my desk that should really be theirs, I know where to forward it.
As you develop your chart, remember that accountability is key. You don’t want “too many cooks in the kitchen,” or too many folks who are accountable for the same thing. The higher up you go on your chart, the fewer people should be accountable for each outcome. Fundamentally each role should be able to be summarized by 3 – 5 bullet points.
It may seem unnecessary if you’re still at the stage of business where you’re doing most of the work, or you only have 1 or 2 employees or contractors. However, having clear roles now means it’s easier to grow your business down the road, because you can hire people according to their strengths. If one person is balancing multiple roles right now, they can eventually give away the ones that aren’t firmly in their wheelhouse in order to focus on the ones that are.
If you need some help identifying the roles in your business and holding your team accountable for their tasks, come join us in the Operations Engine. You’ll get support from other CEOs like yourself, with guidance and advice from me every step of the way. Click here to schedule a call for more information.
(PS: if you’d like to dig deeper into this topic, I really recommend the book Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business, by Gino Wickman. It has some really practical advice for how to get a handle on your business operations.)
How many assumptions do you make about your business on a regular basis? Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- I’m pretty sure I’m on track to meet my goals this quarter.
- It feels like my numbers are about the same as they were last year.
- I haven’t gotten any red alert notices from my bank, so I assume my financials are fine.
- It seems like my clients are happy with the work I’m doing.
- I’m pretty sure my employees are doing the work I’ve asked them to do.
Running your business on assumptions is a dangerous game. If you’re assuming everything is okay, you’re letting yourself off the hook. You need to stop assuming and start knowing.
So, what’s it going to take for you to know that your business is on track to meet your goals, rather than just continuing to assume you’re going to make it?
Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I need to track?
Consider the most important metrics in your business: financials, sales, new clients, referrals, or whatever it is that usually brings you the most growth. Remember these metrics don’t have to be “typical” measures, they just need to be drivers of your goals. Those are the metrics you need to be tracking regularly.
What are my goals for each of those metrics?
Once you know what to track, set a goal for each one. Pick a goal that you can meet within the next quarter, so that it will be easier to track and you’ll see results in a shorter amount of time.
How often do I need to track these things?
You want to track each area often enough that you can see progress when it happens or catch problems when they occur. However, the balance to that is that you don’t want to track so often that it seems like you’re not making any progress at all, because that can be disappointing. (Think of it like weight loss: if you measure your weight every day it can be difficult to see progress, so once a week is a more reasonable time frame.) So this might be daily, weekly or monthly.
How will I hold myself accountable?
You need to hold yourself accountable for actually tracking the metrics, but also for reaching your goals. It doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs to be used consistently and deliver the information you need. Celebrate the wins and if you notice a backslide in any particular area, make sure that you take the time to work on that area and don’t just let it continue to falter.
How will I hold others accountable?
Some of the areas you’ll want to track may fall under the responsibility of other people who work for your business. If one of your employees isn’t meeting their goals, it’s your job to hold them accountable for that and also to support them in making corrections. If it comes to it, it may also become your job to let them go if they’re consistently not meeting your expectations.
You are the CEO of this business; if you don’t hold yourself accountable for meeting your goals, how can you expect the other people who work for you to do the same? So you probably need to have a few metrics to track too. Stop guessing, start knowing, and don’t hold back on keeping everyone accountable for meeting the goals you’ve set for your business.
If you need a little help in this area, accountability is my specialty! I work with CEOs to hold them accountable for doing the work that’s going to bring them the results they’re after. I won’t sugar-coat things, but I will give you options, advice, and support when you need it. If that sounds like something you need, click here to schedule a call and learn more about the Operations Engine, my group coaching program for CEOs who are ready to be accountable for their goals.
How long have you been the only person working in your business? Even if you have a few other people working with you, if you’re the one doing all the heavy lifting, it may be time to re-evaluate a few things.
You can’t keep making things up as you go, changing to meet every new challenge, and adapting to every curveball if you want to have a successful business. If you’ve had a series of “make it work” moments in your business lately, it’s time to take a step back and fix that.
Get Clear on Your Role
If you’re looking to grow your business, then you need to think of yourself as the CEO, not a solopreneur, not the sole proprietor. You can’t keep handling everything by yourself, because you’ll be spending so much time working IN your business that you won’t have any time or energy left over to work ON your business.
First, identify all the tasks in your business that truly require the work and talent of a CEO: those are now your tasks; everything else can be given over to someone else. If you’ve already got contractors or employees working for you, talk to them about expanding their role in the company. If they aren’t the right folks for the job, or if you need more people to accomplish all of those tasks, it’s time to start the hiring process. Bring on as many new team members as you need to in order to give yourself the time to truly step into your role as the CEO of this company.
Get Clear on Your Vision
If your brain feels like a browser with too many tabs open, chances are you’re pursuing too many goals at once. Choose just ONE goal at a time, and put all your energy into achieving that goal. If you try to chase too many goals at once, you’ll never really get all the way to achieving any of them; narrowing your focus means that you’ll be able to accomplish a lot more in the long run.
If you feel like you don’t have the time or the headspace to sit down and get clear on your vision, go back and read that last section again, because that probably means you need to hire more help.
Communicate Your Vision
You have a team, and you have a vision: now it’s time to put those two things together. One quick caveat: everyone in your business doesn’t need to have a detailed knowledge of your entire vision. However, each person in your business probably does need to know specific parts of that vision. Start by distilling your mission and vision into one short statement, no more than a paragraph. Share that with everyone in the company, so that they can help you achieve that vision and represent it as they work in your company. Then, think about the people who might need even more information and what that would look like. Your accountant or CFO, for instance, needs more details on your financial goals. Your right-hand guy or gal probably needs a bigger or more detailed vision plan. Your social media person needs to understand how to paint the picture of your company online. Give each person the information they need, but don’t muddy the waters for them by giving them too much.
The last step in communicating your vision is just to make sure that everyone on your team knows specifically what their role is in helping you carry out your goals. What jobs do they need to do, what’s their area of expertise, what are their tasks, and when do they defer to someone else? Communicating these roles clearly will help your team run like a well-oiled machine.
Hold Everyone Accountable
If you have clearly communicated the roles and tasks for everyone in your company, the next step is to regularly check in on their progress. Schedule time for an annual review (or more frequent, if you think that would help) for every employee. Check in on their performance, give and receive feedback on how things are going for them, and set goals for the next year. As needed, during these reviews you may discover that it’s time to let someone go, or to hire some new people to help balance out the workload or take on new tasks.
Remember, as the CEO you’ve got to hold yourself even more accountable than everyone else. The buck stops with you, and that means you also need to check in with yourself. Evaluate your own performance, make sure you’re doing everything you need to be doing (and not avoiding the tasks you find uncomfortable or unpleasant), and drive the ship that is your business. If you don’t hold yourself accountable, you can’t expect your team to follow you.
If you feel like you could use some help in this process, I’d love for you to join the Operations Engine. It’s full of business owners who are working on transitioning to the role of CEO, and it includes guidance and help along the way from me and from the other members of the group. Growth can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself: click here to schedule a call and learn more.