They say that great leaders are made and not born, and this may very well be true. Acting decisively in situations that require your leadership is something you need to be able to do, but it may not be something that comes naturally.
Instead, you need to gain these skills today, so your team looks to you and trusts that you are making the best possible decision in the moment.
In order to act decisively in your company, it is crucial you are confident in your abilities as a manager – even if you're not. You need to be ready and able to step up and do what you think is right.
While it's true that you will make mistakes, being confident will help you move forward, make decisions, and take action.
Over time, you will become even more confident, due to experience gained; but if you're new to leadership, you may need to work on confidence a bit more intently.
- Have plans. The more plans you have for the success of your company, the more likely you are to obtain success. It's the person who isn't sure what to do who can feel less than confident about what to do next. You might end up changing your plans, but having a starting point from which to lead is a great way to ensure you're managing effectively.
- Gather resources. No matter how new you are, it can help to have resources around that will guide you in your decision-making. This might include books, manuals, and contacts. With these resources, you have the information you need at any time, and you can turn to it immediately.
- Consider your options. When you have time to make a decision, it is helpful to be clear about the options you have, and the choices you could make. Stop and consider all of the angles of the situation, what's happening, what isn't happening, and what might happen if you make a certain choice. The more you can see the potential outcomes for your decisions, the clearer the "right" decision may become.
- Fake it. In the end, if you can simply fake confidence by making decisions, standing up straight, and always having an answer, you will appear confident. Sometimes, that's all you need to do in a difficult or pressure-filled situation.
Confidence may not appear immediately, but as you begin to settle into your role and figure out how to be the leader in the department, you will begin to see that you know what you're doing, and you're ready to take on more challenges.
The knowledge you have is the knowledge you bring to each situation, which allows you to act decisively and to be a confident leader. Though you may know the rules, you need to continue to develop your knowledge set in order to be effective in your role.
- Take courses. While you may have all the training you need for the role you are in, remember that you can always learn more, and grow more in your company. Consider taking leadership courses and courses that will develop your long-term skill set. Each course will give you more information that you can then put into practice.
- Read industry articles. It's also a good idea to keep up on the industry, what is happening, and where the industry is heading. When you do this, you will ensure you are making the right decisions and that you are ready with the best practices. In addition, you may want to stay up to date on the competition -- what they are doing, and what they might do better than you.
- Talk with other managers. Though you have already heard this piece of advice, remember that you can always gain knowledge from those who have been in your position before. They already know what to expect, and they can help you see solutions where you only see problems.
- Know the technology. Since the world has become all the more technology-driven, it's essential that you understand and master the technology your company uses or is thinking of using. The more you do this, the more you will be able to understand what your role is and how you can improve upon the current practices.
Though you are always learning in your job, the more time and energy you dedicate to increasing your knowledge, the more benefits you will reap.
A manager who knows more than everyone else is a manager who can act appropriately, and who can create results for everyone in the company.
Taking Action When Needed
But even with knowledge and confidence, you still need to take action. Even if you're not nervous about this step, it can sometimes be challenging to move forward and do what you need to do. You might second-guess yourself, and you might move back and forth between two decisions – or more.
You might be concerned about whether you are making the right choice, whether it's the right time, or what others might say. These are all valid concerns, and they are especially reasonable when you care about the company and the people who work for you.
Still, you need to take action.
To do so, you will want to follow this approach:
- Know what you need to know. Find out what you need to know. Ask clarifying questions if you're unsure of something. Make sure you have all of the information you need to make a decision.
- Clear away any emotional response. If you're upset or you're in heightened state, you should try to calm down before you take any action. Go outside for a few minutes, take a few deep breaths, close your office door. Do what you need to do to clear away any extra energy that might cause you to act rashly.
- Give yourself a time limit. Instead of spending hours or days thinking about what to do, give yourself a time frame. This will cause you to be quicker, and it will help you learn what you require to act more quickly. In time, this practice will lead to more confidence and better decisions.
- Write it down. Write down what you will do and then walk away from the paper for a reasonable amount of time. Come back to the paper and see if the decision still makes sense. Sleep on it when you can, as a new day might bring a new idea.
- Talk to your team (if needed). When you have the chance, talk to your team about a decision you need to make. You might be able to gather more information and you may uncover even more possible solutions than you had considered before the talk.
- Be transparent about what you decided. Once you make the decision, share it with others, but don't ask for their feedback in that moment. Unless there is something seriously wrong with the decision you made, you don't need to hear anything from anyone else. Be confident in what you have done and be clear about what you decided.
- Be accountable for the response. If things don't turn out the way you expected in your action, you need to be accountable for the response. You need to take responsibility and follow through with a new action, if needed.
Being decisive is something that may take practice, and that may cause some less than ideal results at first. You might be hesitant, as you don't want to make a mistake.
However, it can help to remember that you were chosen to be a manager, so the company already has shown they have faith in you and in your ability to be decisive.
The more you practice, the more effective you will become.
Dismissing an Employee
At times, you might look at your staff and see that someone is not performing in the way you need them to perform. This may not be their fault, or it might be that they are consciously doing things that harm your company.
In either situation (and many others), it becomes the manager's responsibility to determine whether the employee should be dismissed. Though this is not a pleasant situation for either party, it is also an essential part of leading a company to success.
When Should an Employee Be Dismissed?
Every situation of a potential dismissal is different, and there might be situations in which you might let someone go immediately, while another manager may not.
In the end, it's up to you to act decisively and determine what the best course of action might be.
Here are some ways in which you can determine whether a person should be let go – or if another course of action should be considered.
- Learn about the situation. You will want to find out as much as you can about what happened, when it happened, who was involved, etc. Try to get the information from multiple sources so you can be positive about the details and what the situation included.
- Talk to the employee. With this information, you can talk to the employee and see what they have to say. You may learn about extenuating circumstances, or that something else is happening in their life that is impacting them.
- Consider the ramifications of the actions. Consider what happened and what the end results are or were. For example, if an employee forgot to follow safety protocols and it was noticed, that's one thing. But if an employee forgot to follow safety protocols and someone got hurt, that's another situation entirely.
- Consider the history of the employee. Look back over the course of the employee's time at the company. See if they have had similar instances and whether they have fixed past issues.
But this still doesn't tell you when an employee should be dismissed. Again, this decision often is made based on the situation, but there are a few times in which a discussion isn't needed.
- Reduction in force, layoffs, budget cuts – These are situations in which you may not have any input into the decision. You may simply need to dismiss people because other managers have told you to do so. Or you might need to cut labor costs during a difficult economic time.
- Theft – When an employee steals from the company, no matter how much, they should be terminated. Not only does this go against every company's rules, but it's also illegal to steal, even if there is a good reason.
- Non-adherence to safety guidelines, which led to injury or death – Clearly, if you have employees who are not doing what they have been trained to do in relation to safety, that may be grounds for dismissal.
- Frequent sick days or lateness – An employee who does not show up, or who is always late or sick is an employee who is not doing all that they can for their job or for the company.
- Other illegal actions – Other activities might include drug use, vandalism of the property, illegal use of the equipment, etc.
Aside from layoffs, theft, and illegal actions, it is still prudent to give the employee another chance (assuming this is the first occurrence). Sit them down and talk about what you need to see changed in their behavior. Give them time to fix their actions, and then check in later to see if they followed through as decided.
If not, it might be time to let them go.
How to Let Someone Go
As every employee can, and may, react in a different way, the process of letting someone go can be tricky. The goals with this process are to make it clear that the employee will no longer be employed with your company, what they can expect from you during this time, and to ensure the process is as calm as possible.
Here are some ways to make this procedure simple, though it may still be emotional for the employee:
- Set aside time – To dismiss someone, you should set aside enough time that you can talk without being rushed or interrupted. Allow at least an hour, especially for an employee whom you anticipate will have things to say in response.
- Set aside the right time – It is often best to talk with the employee at the end of the day, as this is a time when they are more relaxed. Some think that the end of the day on a Friday is best, while other companies have noticed that Mondays work well, too.
- Keep it quiet – Don't share that you are dismissing someone with anyone else but the people who need to know, i.e. other managers. You want to minimize the potential for rumors to start.
- Be clear – When you're talking with the employee, be clear about what the conversation will include, why it is happening, etc. Don't leave any doubt in the person's mind about their employment.
- Be respectful – Though you might be upset with this person for many reasons, in some cases, make sure you are respectful at all times. After all, you did hire this person and they have contributed to your company in some way.
- Outline the terms – Talk about the terms of the dismissal, including severance, last day, insurance, other resources, etc. Have these terms ready for the employee to review so they can ask questions immediately.
- Thank them for their service – In the end, thank them for the time they did spend at the company, as they did produce results in some way. Even if you're upset with the employee about something they have done, they still deserve your thanks.
You might wonder if it's best to dismiss an employee immediately, or if you should give them time before their last day. In a case of something negative happening, dismissing the employee immediately may be necessary.
In the case of a reduction of force (i.e. layoff), you might want to give the person as much time as possible before their last day. This will allow them time to look for work and to feel their transition will be smoother.
With some situations, you might even have the employee train their replacement, as this will allow the leaving employee a chance to have something to do until their last day – and it can help you.
The Way to Transition
Transitions don't have to be difficult when you prepare for them ahead of time. Think about what the leaving employee contributed to the company, and what you will need to replace.
Prepare yourself for the process by asking:
- What will be missing? Consider what the employee brought to the company, and what will be missing when they are gone. This might include experiences, skills, training, etc.
- Who can take those tasks on? Think about who is available at the company to take the tasks on while training and hiring takes place, or who can take the tasks on from this point forward. Look to the job descriptions of the team and see who might be able to fit these tasks into their day.
- How can the transition begin now? Whenever possible, you will want to begin transitioning the company before the person is let go. This will help everyone acclimate to the changes more gradually. You might begin with one person training another person, for example.
- What training needs to happen? If there are skills or certifications the person who is being asked to leave has that others do not, it's time to figure out how to make sure those are covered. Or it's time to assign training to people in the company who are up to the task.
- Can things be rearranged? Look around the company to see if things might be made better because of the person's departure. Consider if things can be streamlined by having one person take on more tasks they already have training in, or if multiple people can take a few tasks from the departing person's job.
The more you can prepare for the transition and make it less bumpy, the easier it will be on you and on everyone else.
True, it may not be possible in every situation, but when you can prepare, it's time well spent.