My 2017 New/Old Year’s Resolution: Day 1

jeff-bezos-decisions

It’s November 9th, and I’m thinking about how I need to get more consistent with my blog posts (and future podcast episodes). I was thinking this could be a good New Year’s resolution for 2018. But screw that. That’s an excuse. I don’t need to wait that long. So here we have it, My 2017 Old Year’s Resolution. I’m going to write a blog post every work day until the end of the year. That’s roughly 35 days depending what I take off for the holidays. Most will focus on our “always be curious” mantra at VIP Crowd. Some will be on career advice, company culture, leadership, and whatever other business topics peak my interest at the time.

Day 1 Topic: Day 1

I took an easy route for today’s topic. I’ll borrow a few ideas from the master Jeff Bezos. He has famously talked/written about his “Day 1” approach many times.

In his 2016 letter to Amazon shareholders, he talks about needing to keep the Day 1 mindset and resist the urge to move into Day 2. Like most things he puts out, there is a ton of solid takeaways. I’m just going to focus on a few of his thoughts around making high velocity decisions.

Never Use a One-Size-Fits-All Decision Making Process

Many decisions simply don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I hate when company leaders try to put a huge process in place for every little thing. All that tells me is they don’t trust their people. Actually, all that tells their people is they don’t trust their people.

Leaders need to provide feedback but also let others take ownership of ideas. If the project goes well, the company wins and the employee gains confidence. If it doesn’t go well, those smaller projects can be quickly tweaked or even shut down. Chances are you’re not out a ton and the employee learns valuable lessons.

Make Decisions With Only 70% of the Information You Wish You Had

This is an easy one for startups but harder for established companies. I see it all the time with companies that I’ve worked with. They sit around and debate for weeks, then months and sometimes years before they truly commit to anything – true ‘paralysis by analysis’. Then they’re shocked when the competition passes them by and/or they miss out on a huge opportunity.

You’re never going to have 100% of the information you’d like. And to quote Bezos, “if you wait for 90%, in most cases, you’re probably being too slow.” In today’s world, being too slow can be worse than being wrong. Yes, you need to do your homework and gather some information but too many companies wait for everything to be perfect. Instead, leaders need to make a decision and be ready to adjust quickly as needed.

Disagree and Commit

The notion that there is always going to be consensus on the team is crap. If your company or department ALWAYS has consensus before making a decision, you either a) hired the wrong people b) have a team that is too scared to speak up c) have a team that doesn’t feel like you’ll listen anyway d) take too long to make a decision. For those keeping score at home, none of those are good things.

One of the things that has helped me the most as a leader is making sure all ideas from team members are heard. It doesn’t mean we implement them all. In fact, many we can’t and some are just bad. But I make a huge effort to let them know their ideas are heard and taken seriously. If it’s something we’re not going to move forward with, I try very hard to make them understand why it’s not feasible. There’s nothing more important than keeping employees engaged.

Usually we do reach a consensus, but there are plenty of times when we don’t. If we disagree and move forward with my approach, other team members know their voice was heard, I explained why I disagree, and we move forward. They know I don’t want to hear whining about it later. We agree to disagree, but we commit to one solution or approach and we move forward with it.

Alternatively, there are times, where we decide to move forward with someone else’s approach that I disagree with. As Bezos points out, it is not me just letting them have their way on this one even though I’m confident they are wrong and my way is better. I don’t care how small an issue is, I’m not going to waste time and resources on something that I know is wrong only to prove a point.

The times where I, as the leader, agree to disagree and commit to move forward with someone else’s plan are the instances where my opinion is based on probably only 30-40% of the information I wish I had. We could spend (waste) time getting me to 70%, but why bother when the other person is already at 80% and is more of an expert in that area than I’ll ever be. Some things I need to be fully convinced of but those are rare. Usually it comes down to trusting the people we’ve hired to be excellent at their job.

Final Caveat

Again, don’t forget these points are not universal. If we have a huge decision to make, I’m going to want as much information as I can get. I don’t want to take forever, but I can slow it down a little and get even more than 70%. I, as the leader, am also not going to commit to a huge decision that I disagree with. But those are all rare instances. I see too many business leaders who think most of the issues and decisions they face are huge when they’re just not.

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