That’s why you’re paid the big bucks!

Ever heard this statement? I have. More times than I care to remember and it was usually at a time where I was being asked to make an important decision on the spot; without the data, background and information necessary to make an intelligent choice.

"But that's why you're paid the big bucks.."

One day I had heard that comment, with its passive-aggressive undertones, just one too many times. My switch suddenly flicked.

So instead of smiling and tolerating it as I usually would, I stopped. Took a deep breath. Pulled my shoulders back, and said: "Actually No. I'm paid the big bucks to NOT say what's on my mind right now. To have the self-awareness and judgement to know what to say, and when to say it. THAT'S why I'm paid the big bucks."

It is the truth. While leaders are justifiably paid more to reward them for the accountability that comes with making big, hairy decisions, the fact is most organisations have embedded risk assessments, protocols, policies and delegations in place to ensure that one person alone cannot make a decision that will bring a company to its knees.

But making the right decision is just part of it. How you make the decision is equally as important.

People need to know your decision is well considered and thoughtful. They also need to know you recognise and have included the data, ideas and information they have provided to support your choice.

For experienced managers it's easy to sometimes make an on-the-spot decision. That's because years of experience in similar situations, plus a knowledge of your company, industry or market, ensures more often than not you'll make the right call. At certain times it's absolutely necessary to make an immediate decision.

In Antarctica I managed the search and rescue effort following a plane crash – it was not the time for consensus decision-making nor lengthy consultation. It was an emergency and the situation required strong decisive leadership.

But when the decision is not a life-and-death moment there is real "power in the pause". Stop, pause and reflect. It only takes a moment but it shows you have actually considered the input given by the other person. You respect their input, you've considered it and now you've made the call. A simple pause.

Why is a pause so important? Because employees want to know they are respected and appreciated. As the saying goes, people may readily forget the things that you said, but they will always remember the way you made them feel. Many workplace legends are built around the horrid things weary and stressed-out managers said or did, almost always in the heat of the moment.

When leaders make it a priority to show outward respect for employees on a regular basis, it will lead to a strong and enduring workplace culture as well as positive experiences and moments that people remember.

Pausing to consider your response not only buys time to develop a reasoned response, it also shows you have taken the time – even just a few moments – to respectfully weigh up the other person's input.

These pauses are ‘edge moments‘.

Rachael Robertson - Edge Moments

When a person weighs up the decision to accept or reject a promotion or whether or not to resign, they are facing an ‘edge event‘. When I get to the edge should I jump in or not?

Factoring heavily into the decision will be the dozens and dozens of edge moments they have had along the way. The moments where they may not remember what their manager said, but they will always remember how they felt.

Take a moment, pause, show respect. It will create an edge moment that will help retain talented staff and reduce staff turnover costs.

Equally, if you ask for more information ("please write me a memo") then commit to a time when you can meet with the person and follow up – and ensure you do.

In 2011, the Mercer Australia What's Working™ survey found that compared to past surveys, employees today feel more engaged and satisfied with many aspects of their jobs, but many – 40%, up from 25% in 2003 – are seriously considering leaving their organisation.

These 40% of people will be recalling the edge moments that have led them to their edge event – the decision to leave or stay.

Understanding it's respecting the people just as much as it is the process, is the hallmark of an experienced and astute leader.

Inexperienced ‘rookie' leaders will tend to think and say their first thoughts. They need to understand the bigger picture (the impact their words and behaviour has on staff), and better appreciate the situation, the process and themselves.

Equally, highly knowledgeable managers have the years of experience to carefully consider each decision but will often speak their mind at that very moment. They need to understand the power of the pause in building staff respect and engagement.

So, what to do…

Rachael Robertson - Think Say Chart #2

If you tend towards being ‘knowledgeable', remember to really think about the other people in the process. Think of ways to hold your tongue and buy some time.

If you're more of a ‘rookie' in the way you deal with this try to think more deeply instead of rushing to the first conclusion. Understand how the decision process works and take a breath.

If your tendency is to be perhaps, less sincere than you could be, remember the individual involved and think about how they feel when you ask for more information but fail to follow up.

Of course, if you're experienced it's always a good reminder to make sure you follow up with your people, and reflect on what went well and what could have been done better.

The ability to make difficult decisions consistently and use good judgment is part of being a strong, effective leader. But …

… the ability to pause and read the situation before making those decisions is ‘why you're paid the big bucks'.

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