Three Questions Every Manager Must Ask, All the Time…

As managers, one of our primary responsibilities is to make decisions, on behalf of the business, team, and ourselves. As much as we like to quantify every decision and try to work formulas for an objective decision making process, I’m sure we all agree that many situations also demand subjective decision making where data is not the primary driver but things like perceptions, feelings, emotions, relationships, etc are. While dealing with subjective decisions, I feel all managers must ask themselves, and if possible the key stakeholders, the following three questions, and analyze responses before taking a final call, exactly in that order.

  1. What will be the impact of this decision on the business: Like it or not, the biggest stakeholder in any decision is the business itself. We all need the business to grow to ensure we grow. Thinking our growth is mutually exclusive of business growth is probably the most basic leadership mistakes we can make. There are a number of subjective ways in which a decision can affect the business, brand equity, strategic fit, brand creditability are just some. We need to ensure that the decision will take the business to the next level is some way or the other, or atleast not affect the business negatively.
  2. What will be the impact of the decision on the team/people: The next key consideration should be, how it affects the team and the other stakeholders of this business. For example, while initiating a new product offering, the key consideration could be the returns, but how well the portfolio complements the skills sets of the team (sales and operations), and also takes it to the next level could be another consideration. We generally get tied by how much we can produce using the avaialble resources and miss out the point of how much the skill sets of the team will grow by taking up some assignments.
  3. And Finally, what will be the impact of this decision on us personally: At the end of the day, we too have a stake in the decision. The outcome of the decision we make directly affects and defines our performance as much as it affects the business reasoning and team morale. Therefore, it is best to also check if we will be benefited from the decision. There were instances early in my career when I made decisions that were for the good of the team, but were awfully bad for my own good. The manager is not a sacrificial lamb and does not gain anything from being one – not even brownie points.

While the points above maybe too simplistic, the key is the order. We generally exclude one or two points, or jumble up the order. For a manager to be successful, I guess considering all the above parameters is as critical as the order in which they are considered. What do you think?

These points were actually inspired from a placard I came across in an officers training academy of the Indian Army, which read something like this:

  • The interest of my country and countrymen come first
  • The interest of the soldiers who fight with me comes next
  • My interest come last, and always last.
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