The Decision Making Triad

Good decision making does not come naturally to me. There, I said it! I admit it!!!

I am naturally a very emotive person, and particularly when I was younger I would allow emotions to cloud my judgement. The result would be poor decisions resulting in a loss of time, money, and opportunity. To make matters worse, my emotions and ego would then stick up for my poor decisions leading to defensive behaviours and justification. The justification didn’t change the result, nor did it make me feel better.

When it comes to business, as owners or managers we are passionate about what we do. Emotion is going to be a big part of how we communicate with our customers and staff. Emotion is a great connecter, inspirer, and can drive us through projects and tough times. But emotion is inconsistent, temporary, and fluctuates. This is why emotion is a poor basis to make decisions upon. A good example is anger and frustration. I am sure I am not alone in feeling these on a regular basis. When you are angry at a staff member for providing poor customer service, or missing a sale this is not a good reason to change staffing, or decide on next quarter’s L&D plans. This is simply a snap shot that needs to be banked (or noted) and added to all the other information you have. But what other information? and when is a good time to make business decisions? Let me introduce what I call The Decision Triad

The Decision Triad

Things can get complicated very quickly in life so I try and keep things as straight forward as possible. When it comes to making key decisions in business I use a triad of three key techniques in conjunction with each other. To use these together makes for a strong clear way to  lead and direct your work environment.

  1. Notes

Keeping a regular record on what you see and hear can become one of the most powerful tools you will ever use. If you are like me, you’ll know that memory can be very unreliable. Especially when we are talking about things that happened six months ago, (let alone last Monday…!) You may use a hip pocket notepad, or an A3/A4 notebook that you keep locked away in your office and update on your breaks, or you may utilise one of the many great mobile/tablet apps to keep your notes. Whatever you use, make sure it is “user friendly”. The last thing you want is for your note taking to become another job you need to do on top of everything else. Write down all of your observations that you feel are good or bad, or just worth remembering. In this exercise, you are not writing down tasks. This is not a To-Do List. Purely observations. An example may be that a team member came to work 15 minutes late, or that the toner on the printer ran out and a spare was not organised. These small observations will give you great insight for a later date when you come to making decisions on your people, your processes, and your business strategies. A quick tip – make your notes detailed, and include dates and times. Use a consistent format so it is easy to read over quickly when it comes to reviewing all of your information.

  1. Analysis Schedule

We all have a calendar and schedules. If you are really organised, you will have an Ideal Week that is adapted to current needs for the week at hand. But within this do we have a time of the week where we take time out to analyse our business and all the observations we have seen? Some may want to do this daily, or maybe even once a month is enough, but the key to this part of the triad is to STOP! Stop and consume all the relevant information within your business and then decide on your tasks and the tasks of your people. This small investment in time can save thousands and thousands of dollars as well as a lot of man-hours.

  1. Numbers

If notes and a regular schedule make up the base of the triad, then Numbers is most definitely the apex.

Knowing your numbers. Checking them regularly. Knowing what drives good and bad results. Knowing how they relate to particular people or marketing activity in your business are all ultra-critical. Relating the key driving figures in your business (usually called KPI’s or Key Point Indicators) back to ultimate revenue and profitability are going to put you in the driving seat. Relating these numbers to your observations and doing this regularly will then create a very clear picture of what the next steps are going to be. I would describe myself as a people-person, so I naturally thought that making decisions based on numbers was quite a sterile way of doing things. But, I have learnt that numbers show us everything. They tell us about our engagement with our customers, how effective our communication is, and where we are failing to connect with each other amongst many many other things. Well-crafted KPI’s can start to create magic. Suddenly you can gain confidence in your leadership ability that you have never experienced before. You can gain clarity in what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to achieve it. You can start creating time in your working week.

Ultimately, you can be catapulted into a mindset where you feel that you don’t need to make a decision again. You simply need to follow what your numbers are telling you to do. Whenever there is uncertainty you can refer to your notes, or ask your team why a certain number is the way it is (i.e. get inquisitive). You may even need to ask if the number you are measuring are the right ones. If they need change, then change them!

In many businesses, you will be able to utilise your CRM or POS system reports. There is also the good old spread sheet which I must admit I am still fond of. But, be under no illusion. If you do not set up this triad then being consistent is going to be tough. Therefore, it will be near on impossible to gain consistent performance from your team and your products. The triad will not stop us from losing our temper occasionally, and it will stop us getting frustrated, but it will ensure our decision making is sound. It will help us have effective conversations with our team, and I am certain this will positively affect our enjoyment at work along with sales results.

Check yourself - no one else will

It is true what they say. Being a small business owner is a lonely existence. To offset this loneliness you can always take comfort that many other people in your network are going through the same thing. You can also gain support through the many business communities and on-line groups that exist.

The fact always remains that you end up spending most of your time by yourself. Even for business owners that are surrounded by their teams, or family and friends on a daily basis can feel isolated. The feeling of loneliness often comes from the feeling that no one understands, especially when all they do is give advice that is either irrelevant or unhelpful. Frustration becomes a daily habit and it all becomes a big struggle.

As a business owner myself I am quite familiar with this feeling. I also see it every day in my work as a consultant. The Business Owner’s common reaction manifests in some of these behaviours:

• Frustration – resulting in the staff being “ridden hard” and usually unfairly.
• Irritation – leading to unpleasantness and resentment back towards you the owner.
• Lowered trust – staff are given less slack as the owner over-compensates and then gets labelled as a “Control Freak”.
• Poor customer service – staff are talked over, or corrected in front of customers.

These are a few of the many reactions that are common within a business operation. The crazy thing about it is that these actions are usually a contradiction to the standards that the owner is trying to instill in their team culture.

So, why does this happen?

The short answer is that there is simply no one more senior to correct you. To guide you. To keep you and your behaviour in check.

I love this quote that I’ve seen on meme’s a few times:


It takes a lot of focus and self-control to be able to constantly check yourself. The consequence of not checking yourself results in the team receiving mixed messages from you. You are also going to be your own biggest enemy in regard to achieving your own goals.

I often see behaviour in small business owners that makes me ask the question “if you hired a manager that did that then would you sack them?” Of course, this is a big wake up call to change behaviour immediately.

Leading by example is effective – we can all agree on this. To do this CONSISTENTLY a good idea is to act as if you are employed as a manager rather than the owner of your own business. It is a great way to ensure that you check yourself and maintain a positive behaviour that is in line with the culture you want your team to buy into. This in turn will be a key driver for you and your team – both short term and long term.