People often ask me what key qualities are commonly found in C-suite leaders. While there are a handful, the one trait that often has the most impact on the organization, its people and the executive's career is decisiveness.
Recently, one of my clients was faced with a complex situation involving staff acquired from a merger. The staff provided a unique and necessary function to the business, but the cultures were a mismatch. Friction was increasing and a wedge was evolving.
On the surface, there appeared to be three choices: replace the team, in whole or part, with members who embraced the acquired's culture, tackle integrating the company cultures, or do nothing and hope the teams and time would work it out.
Having immediately tossed out the last option, my client assessed the pros and cons of each remaining option numerous times and the pathway remained unclear. He asked for my help and I suggested we go back to the basics.
One of the first steps I take any client through is a values exercise because values is the foundation of our decisions, behaviors, mindsets, etc. While the relative priority of our values may shift within a particular context or chapter of our lives, those we hold dear change very little over time - they form the basis of who we are. In that values exercise, the client identifies ten values, then whittles the ten to five, then five to three.
We revisited his top three values. Together we explored how each value manifested in the decision options and subsequent outcomes. We tested for alignment in considering numerous scenarios, hashing out strategies, and weighing drawbacks and advantages of various options.
Though exhausted at the end of the coachsulting session, he said it was a "good tired" because he had identified a set of decisions rooted in balancing the short-term and long-term good of the firm and its staff while staying true to his values. Reconnecting with his fundamental values in the decision-making process enabled him to more easily overcome fear, doubt, and equivocation - he was ready to move forward.
Next, he outlined both his decisions and the process he used to arrive at them to his team, sharing that he expected bumps and tweaks along the way and stressing he relied on them for feedback as they took this journey together. Several teammates told him after they appreciated and respected his thoughtful approach.
Leaders who execute a rational, contemplative decision-making process inspire others to feel supported and trusted. Often they influence a culture of further decision making and collaboration, fostering improvements in performance, engagement and results.
So, in my view, for its potential to impact, decisiveness is one of the most important traits among executives.