What do your market niche, your husband, your business location, your career, and today’s necktie all have in common? Each one is the result of a decision, and each, with the exception of the tie, is a choice you are going to have to live with for a long time. In the realms of business and life, the right decisions provide your best hope for success. The majority of folks agree with that, but darn few have a solid process for making those right decisions.
In her “Make No Mistake: How to make the Best Decision the First Time,” Annette Dubrouillet lays out a clear, very applicable system, with all the due considerations attached. On Thursday, April 24, at 5:30 p.m., at Princeton’s Salt Creek Grille, Dubrouillet addresses the Central Jersey chapter of the International Association of Administrative Professionals, explaining “Decision Making: Why Style Matters.” Cost for this dinner meeting: $43. Visit www.iaap-centraljerset.org.
A daughter of World War II veterans, young Annette, along with the entire Dubrouillet family, was smitten with wanderlust. Born in St. Louis, she followed her family’s moves through, as she puts it, “a little bit of everywhere.” Pausing in Florida, Dubrouillet earned her bachelor’s in education from the University in Central Florida in 1977 and began a special education teaching career. Then the travel urge kicked in. Finding herself in Germany, Dubrouillet joined the Army as a civilian as head of early childhood development for military installations.
Handling the 1,500 children of military personnel on the German bases brought Dubrouillet’s administrative prowess to the fore. She was then invited to the Washington headquarters, where she first became trainer, then overall inspector for all the military’s childhood development centers. Base commanders trembled at her surprise inspections. Today, author and speaker Dubrouillet runs Decision Drivers LLC based in Morris Plains.
“One of the real benefits of the military is that you cannot help but learn accountability and responsibility for all your decisions first-hand,” Dubrouillet says. “Every person involved holds a clear concept of the mission. Each knows their part and how it affects the whole.”
While these are admirable practices for companies to adopt, most business settings do not embrace such an environment. Life and the workplace are muddled. The trick, Dubrouillet says, is to cultivate and practice clear thinking amid the muddy stream of activity racing by you.
Feeling the pressures. It takes fate to prove your decisions good or bad. However, your odds get a whole lot better when you make your choices for the right reasons. In most cases, Dubrouillet explains, we are pushed and prodded to take a certain path based on decision drivers: time pressure, politics, ego, available resources, etc. These drivers are the first component to kick in when an individual is initially challenged to make a decision. These pressures are uncomfortable, and seductive. It’s so easy to give in to, say, one’s ego, slap down a choice, and be done with it.
Some of these drivers are undeniably factors in your choice. If you have to design an ad campaign by 5 p.m. and you have no videographer on staff, time and resources are guiding you towards a swiftly manufactured print campaign, using in-house talent. Understandable. But the good executive will see these factors as boundaries, not dictators. Other media are still available. Think, gather solutions, select one.
My way vs. our way. “Decisions involve your personal style,” Dubrouillet says. “Everyone falls somewhere on the continuum of an open-ended decider and a closed-ended decider.” The closed-ended decider is the leader by fiat. Cogitating briefly all within his own skull, he hurls down a decision like Zeus from Mount Olympus. Decisions come out fast, done, and ready for implementation. The open-ended decider is the consensus-gatherer. She is the person who will browse the team, scoop up all the opinions and solution possibilities, weigh the options, and, through this dialectic, work her way to a decision.
Unto each deciding style, there is a season. When the ad campaign is due at end of business day, it’s time for the closed-ended decider to step in, select, and move onto the drawing board swiftly. When the task is complex and long term, the whole team had best feel involved. “Both styles work,” Dubrouillet says, “but danger lies at the extreme of either one. The insistent consensus builder may not be comfortable with actually making the decision and will use team-gathering as a stall.” Conversely, the my-way, swift decider tends to ignore such items as complex facts or the very idea that someone else might conceivably produce a more workable solution. (Hint: you can decide to change your style to fit the situation.)
Decider enabling. In what may seem an odd choice, many of Dubrouillet’s decision-making speaking engagements are given to administrative professionals. At first glance it may seem as if administrators are the footstools of the totem pole. When do these under-appreciated souls have the opportunity to decide anything of consequence, one may ask? “Much more often than you might imagine,” Dubrouillet says. “Remember, the one who guides the decisions of the team is not always the appointed team leader.”
To all of us who sit at a table with a group and listen to the boss call forth the need for a decision on a specific challenge, Dubrouillet proffers three vital tips of assertive communication.
First: guide through clarification. After the problem is stated and the first few stabs at handling it are proposed, raise your hand, and in all masterful humility, say, “Let me make sure I understand what we are saying here. We are trying to attract new clients to our latest line as rapidly as possible by using the best available ad strategy we can develop and launch with these resources at hand.”
The thoughtless on the team may think, “how nice of Marianne, trying to get into her little head what we are deliberating.” But the cogent ones will gratefully thank Marianne for defining the problem and establishing a solutions structure — which, by the way, is engineered on Marianne’s own terms.
Secondly: suggest a time frame. With an open-ended decider in charge, Marianne might call for reaching a solution by 3 p.m. and limiting the number of opined options to one per person. Or, to pry open the closed-minded project manager, she might propose that since this topic is so important, we not finally decide until 2:45 p.m., and that at least four options get put on the table.
Thirdly: piggyback ideas. Try to bring aboard your own ideas by re-stating the suggestion of another team member and blending your thoughts in. “Perhaps along the idea that Jim just put forth, we could add …”
Throughout it all, Dubrouillet takes the decisionally challenged businessperson through a progressive, logical, seven-step process. And when at last the gleaming selection is pridefully held up to the light, she begs them not to forget the most important part: implementation. “Decisions don’t walk into action by themselves,” she laughs. “You’ve got to carry them.”
Editor’s note: Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/US1Personalities to hear Dubrouillet and other business leaders tell their own stories to host Bart Jackson.