My phone kept ringing off the hook. I was receiving a flood of notifications, and the news kept giving mixed reports. March of 2020 wasn’t just a frenzy, it was absolute chaos. But I don’t need to remind you of that fact — it’s hard not to recall those initial days of the pandemic.
Back then, nobody seemed to know what was going on. There are no “founder guidelines” for what to do when an unprecedented pandemic hits. In those moments, it’s just you and your choices.
Colleagues were scrambling to set up Zoom meetings and re-structuring their organizations due to the new economic uncertainty. And we all had to address the biggest question of all: What’s going to happen?
In their enlightening story for Harvard Business Review, contributors David J. Snowden and Mary E Boone note that “Working in unfamiliar environments can help leaders and experts approach decision-making more creatively.”
As CEO of my company, Jotform, there were no easy answers to give, but I knew that it was up to me to remain a steady harbor for my team. We’d have to work together to develop new coping mechanisms. And it was also up to me to figure out a variety of decisions. This meant that I needed to leave my comfort zone and come up with an entirely new way of leading.
Why leaders need to choose the right framework for decision-making
When settings are unfamiliar and challenging, we shouldn’t rely on our old ways of doing things. Instead, we need to learn to identify the signals of when a shift in leadership is needed.
For instance, I know of many business colleagues who were paralyzed when the pandemic struck. It took them a long time to change the way they made their decisions — meaning their teams were also caught in this limbo.
That’s the thing about being a leader: People are looking to you for reassurance and guidance. We have to be ultra-clear about our communication and our decisions.
Researchers Snowden and Boone identified several frameworks for decision-making. However, I’d like to share some of the strategies that worked for me during the upheaval of 2020 and have continued to help me navigate the following years up until now.
Related: “Quitting Is A Virtue”: Why This Decision-Making Expert Says That Quitting Can Be A Growth Strategy
1. Learn to make quick decisions
Entrepreneur contributor Sanchita Dash writes that “One of the most important traits of being an entrepreneur is being able to take quick decisions that more often than not, decide the fate of your company.” She wrote this back in 2018 when this practice wasn’t nearly as essential as it has become today.
A fast approach doesn’t just guarantee you don’t remain stuck, but it also ensures your employees feel a greater sense of psychological safety — which will affect your organization’s morale and productivity in the long run.
There are many articles about why we need to slow down to make the wisest decisions during a crisis, but I believe that leaders also need to develop agility. Of course, this doesn’t mean going into stressful overdrive thinking you have to rapidly resolve every problem cropping up. You’ll only make yourself sick and burn out.
I’m generally a big proponent of growing slowly and steadily as a business — it’s one of the main pillars of my company. But when it comes to decision-making, I agree with the founder of Polash Ventures, Lalit Upadhyay. “As an entrepreneur, you need to take decisions quickly as the active time frame for a current decision is going to be very short,” he tells Dash. “The result of the decision one has taken will show whether it was a quality decision or not.”
Moreover, he affirms that “the entrepreneurial journey is all about taking the right decisions with confidence and positivity, firmly at the right time, one after another.”
Related: Want to Be More Memorable to People? Ask Yourself This One Thing.
2. During a crisis, avoid micromanaging at all costs
Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about the importance of cutting out hard deadlines from your organization. Why? Because people who feel the pressure to produce won’t do their best work. In the case of my form-building company, I’ve come up with a framework for leading that is about avoiding any kind of micromanaging. It has no place here.
This was especially vital to cut out during 2020 when the world came to a halt. Suddenly, every employee was forced to juggle their work and home responsibilities like never before — and flexibility wasn’t just a nice option, it was mandatory. We couldn’t demand that our teams finish a project by the same means they had done in days past.
Earlier this year Ivan Popov made the case for why leaders need to stop micromanaging their teams and learn to let go. “Employees all over the world work in a constantly changing and evolving work environment,” he wrote for Entrepreneur. “While leaders and managers should focus on ways to improve their team’s overall work experience, they should also not forget about upgrading their leadership strategies.”
Taking the above into consideration, your framework for decision-making shouldn’t just be about your bottom line, but also lead to a more fluid workflow and more dynamic culture.
Related: Ask This One Question If You Want to Succeed
3. Don’t try to find all the right answers — just act
This one is particularly tricky for perfectionists who believe they can burn the candle at both ends figuring out the right solution for each problem.
As someone who struggles with this tendency, I’m here to tell you that the adage is right when it says “done is better than perfect.”
Snowden and Boone note that the pandemic demands decisive action, but that good leadership also “requires openness to change on an individual level.”
They add: “Truly adept leaders will know not only how to identify the context they’re working in at any given time but also how to change their behavior and their decisions to match that context.”
I humbly attribute my ability to manage this crisis with a dose of confidence and grace to my agility as a leader.
Related: How to Use Mental Models to Make Better Decisions Faster
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