The deciding factor

first_imgThe deciding factorOn 1 Feb 2002 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. Previous Article Next Article How can you successfully sway a decision after it has been made?  Clifford J Ehrlich advises on this, and howto assess a potential bossQ: “I know the best way to influence a decision is to be there whenit is being made, but sometimes conflicts and deadlines don’t allow it. Itseems that once people have made a decision, or are well advanced in thedecision-making process, they are reluctant to consider another perspective.How can I influence the outcome at that point?” A: Everyone in a job with a significant advice-giving component, suchas HR, understands the value of entering a discussion when the participants areopen-minded and the flow of ideas is strongest. Unfortunately, businessexecutives usually have more things to do than time allows. Their need to moveahead quickly causes them to resist backtracking or rethinking a decision. However, we have found that our lack of success in persuading people toreconsider a decision often results from the approach we use. We introduceinformation we believe may have been overlooked or given too little weight, andexplain its merits. The decision-maker defends the decision and we quickly findourselves in a debate. Since the decision-maker holds a different position, guesswho wins? An effective alternative is to shift the discussion from debate to inquiry.Inquiry prevents participants from being stranded at separate ends of adiscussion and creates alignment. Rather than telling your colleague what iswrong with their decision, ask: “How does this bring you closer to yourbusiness objectives? What opportunities does it make possible that would nothave been under the alternatives that were considered? What tipped the scale inyour thinking? What was it about the other options you didn’t like?” Ask the questions in a tone that says, “I want to understand”,rather than, “You’ve made a mistake and I want to change your mind”. This approach worked for me when one of our divisions was planning anacquisition. I knew, as did the head of that division, that we didn’t have muchin the way of executive talent capable of running that new business. But he hadmade considerable progress in the acquisition process when I learned about it.I went to see him and told him I wanted to get his thinking on the move. Hewalked me through the numbers – market share, return on investment and so on –making a compelling case for the acquisition. And then I asked: “Who is going to run it?” It stopped him dead inhis tracks. We really didn’t have anyone suitable and neither did the companywe were about to acquire. The wonderful numbers I had seen wouldn’t materialisewithout the right team. He didn’t have that team, and so didn’t proceed withthe acquisition. Inquiry is also useful in a situation where a manager is about to make apromotion or hire from outside the company, and your assessment is that itwon’t be a suitable appointment. Questions directed at the candidate’sexperience or ability to handle the crucial aspects of the job give the managerthe opportunity to rethink the decision before it is final. Whether or not your approach changes the outcome, you will have raisedissues that shouldn’t be overlooked and have helped sharpen the manager’sfocus. Remember in all of these situations that the people you are counselling wantto make the right decision. Your job is to approach them in a way thatfacilitates that result. Q: “My last two bosses were micro-managers who made me miserable. Iam moving to a new job as a benefits manager and want to make sure my next bosswill help me grow and develop in my role. What traits should I look for?” A: I, too, have been through the agony of accepting a job that wasterrific, only to discover the person I worked for drained me of enthusiasm andself-confidence. After that experience, I determined it is best to work forpeople who: – Are accessible. They are there when you need them – Are willing to teach you and help you think, and are committed to yourprofessional growth. They can challenge and guide you – Are willing to share information, insights and perspectives – Give credit to others. They share praise; they don’t hog it – Know that work is only part of living a full life To assess a potential boss, utilise the interview process. Ask, what was thelast big decision made in benefits? What role did you play? What role did theperson in the job I’m going into play? Listen carefully to discern how the bosssees himself or herself and subordinates as players in implementing decisions. By all means, if it is possible, contact the boss’s former employees and askfor their appraisals. It is the best way to gauge if you and the boss will becompatible. And it is an excellent way for you to learn what traits to exhibitwhen you are the boss. Clifford J Ehrlich is a principal of the Cabot AdvisoryGroup (, a US-based company of veteran senior HR executivesfrom global organisations. Cabot principals have direct experience designingand implementing creative, practical solutions to today’s leading HRchallenges. Ehrlich is the former senior vice-president of HR at MarriottInternational where he was responsible for 195,000 employees. Related posts:No related photos.last_img read more