I once took a leadership course at Yale University in the US, which included a number of group exercises that put our skills to the test.
One of the exercises involved a scenario about a possible dispute that could arise among management members because of a limited number of car parking spaces at their place of work. The professor asked us to come up with a solution that would satisfy all management members.
One of my colleagues instantly answered that, as a chief executive, he did not need to consult with his colleagues; he would make the decision and everyone had to agree with it.
Factors such as our cultural background, personalities and the environment our businesses operate in affect decision-making. I witnessed this during the course at Yale and also among my team members.
But if there is one thing that affects decision-makers regardless of their backgrounds, it is making the right decision during uncertain times.
I cannot recall the number of times in the past two years that my business acquaintances and I discussed making difficult decisions.
As efficient as I was at taking decisions, navigating a business during the Covid-19 pandemic slowed my decision-making process.
I would find myself taking a bit longer to think about a situation and make the right decision. I would consult more people and conduct additional research.
During these times, I thought even more about how every decision could affect my business, my team and our overall performance.
I remember how one of my business acquaintances decided to take a year-long hiatus because she was so overwhelmed with the decision-making process that she thought it was better to not make any decisions at all and wait for the pandemic to end.
Of course, she had the luxury of being able to put her business on hold — something that many entrepreneurs cannot afford to do.
But as I navigated through the pandemic, I found the one thing that helped me navigate difficult times was to think of how every decision I make aligns with my business’s mission and vision.
We would begin every decision-making exercise with a number of questions: is this decision aligned with our mission and our objectives? How will it impact our team and our clients?
Another helpful approach was to ensure that we had created a culture where employees feel comfortable to make suggestions.
We usually hold monthly meetings where everyone is invited and our team can raise concerns and suggest ideas.
But my business acquaintances and I noticed that not everyone felt comfortable sharing suggestions. Some would feel shy to speak up in a big group, while others did not want to seem like they had a different opinion than their managers and team members.
To receive the best suggestions and make the right decisions, we needed to structure spaces where employees felt they could make suggestions without fear of judgment.
This could take different forms, such as an open-door policy where employees could either approach business leaders directly, through e-mails or set up online meetings.
We don’t know what the years ahead will bring, but if we set up the right decision-making processes and culture, making the right decisions will become easier.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi