“Effective problem solving” and “the ability to initiate critical-thinking” are some of the more common things employers see on the resumes of prospective managers. However, skills related to decision-making may be a missing component to a future manager’s resume and repertoire. Managers inherently must make decisions that dramatically affect business performance and employee satisfaction. Therefore, management selection processes must clearly identify and grade a candidate’s ability to think through decisions, consider alternatives, and utilize the information available to ensure they make the decision that is most appropriate for the organization in which they serve.
One of my more intuitive mentors was a University Professor of Strategic Management who had concerned himself with assessing how capable future professionals will be in making decisions within a real-world organization. He had posed a philosophical question concerning compensation to his soon to be graduates, who could very well one day be one of your managers.
Job A and Job B have equal workloads. Wage research indicates that Job B pays more due to scarcity in the corresponding labor pool, while Job A pays less because a surplus in the corresponding labor pool. Is it Ethical to raise Job A’s compensation to match Job B?
The purpose of the exercise was to explore the ethical lenses of altruism, ethical egoism, and utilitarianism in the context of business decisions. Ambiguity was purposefully left in the scenario to prompt participants into thinking critically and using the available information to make a managerial decision. The operative word is available; often managers have to make critical decisions based on the information they can gather within a limited window of time.
The dilemma really boils down into three broad solutions, all of which are appropriate so long as the manager uses clear reasoning and chooses the option that aligns with organizational values:
The Lens of Ethical Egoism: Compensate Job A less than Job B (maximize the benefit to the organization/self, increasing the profit margin indirectly benefits all employees).
The Lens of Utilitarianism: Compensate Job A and Job B at a value that is equitable to the workload and fair to the organization/self (decision based of doing the greatest good for the greatest number of participants).
The Lens of Altruism: Compensate Job A and Job B at the higher value at the expense of the organization/self (prioritizing the benefits of the other participants ahead of the organization/self).
However, there was a fourth option not considered when the exercise began, indecision. Just over a third of the individuals participating in the exercise had chosen the only wrong solution, which was to actively avoid making a decision. Individuals had lacked the confidence to choose and subsequently support their reasoning. Bridging this concept into the real world, organizations must identify if their leaders are truly making critical decisions or simply delaying them. A good decision benefits an organization, a bad decision teaches an organization, a lack of a decision can be the ruin of an organization. Listed below are some great ways to test for and promote decisiveness:
1. Use interview questions that illustrate a manager’s decision-making process:
Do you have a process or a methodology that you use when you are making decisions?
How will you decide whether to accept a job offer should an employer offer you a job that you think is a good match for your skills and preferred workplace?
Think about an occasion when you needed to choose between two or three seemingly equally viable paths to accomplish a goal. How did you make your decision about the path to follow?
2. Clearly communicate organizational values to leadership personnel.
Oftentimes indecision is caused by a fear of making a bad decision rather than a knowledge or skill-related issue. We expect our managers to make decisions that are aligned with our organization, therefore we must continuously practice and reinforce company values. 3. Promote the team.
Managers should never feel as though they are cornered into making critical decisions without support. Promote groupthink processes whenever applicable. The more insight a manager has coming from above and below, the more they will feel comfortable making decisions and will typically come to the right decision more efficiently
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Michael Chiovitti, Chief Talent Strategist
Eden Resources, LLC