Often the smallest decisions have the biggest impact. The United States Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) teams, commonly known as US Navy SEALs, are well-aware of how important it is to use the right tools of decision making to create the outcomes we want.
The elite unit of soldiers are known for their dogged perseverance and for achieving the impossible.
Ryan Angold, former Navy SEAL and CEO of ADS, Inc., says that it is important to gather as much information as possible before beginning the decision-making process. He insists that one might access the right resources but it is not feasible to sit in “analysis paralysis forever. Ultimately, there’s no 100% perfect decision.” Author and ex-Navy SEAL David Silverman states that self-awareness and discipline are two characteristics that shape a leader’s efficiency.
VMWare Chief Digital Transformation Officer Mike Hayes, is a former US Navy SEAL Commander who has led many dangerous missions in Afghanistan knows a thing or two about making life and death decisions. He reveals,” Whether I’m making an investment decision on what the company should do right now or I’m deciding what operations the SEALs should go on, it comes down to the same decision making framework.”
According to him, authentic leadership comes down to decision making and reveals the steps he uses to arrive at the best possible decision:
Gathering the right data is key towards making an informed decision that will benefit the team. According to Hayes, people tend to gravitate towards like-minded people. But this can put you at a disadvantage as you miss out on learning from those who have different experiences and worldview. As someone who has worked at the White House and in finance, Hayes has experiences across different fields and stresses on the importance of building a team of people who do not think like you. This will help you plan out how to tackle worst-case scenarios while making sure your blind spots are covered.
Decide When To Make Your Decision
As a leader, time is of the essence. Hayes states, “The first decision is when to make your decision. That’s the thing that most people get wrong.” Sometimes you have days to gather data, while sometimes it is a 30-second decision on where to drop a bomb.
In such cases, it is important to know when to make a decision and to stand by it. At times, you can even decide to postpone making a decision. He reveals that knowing when you’re at inflection requires experience. Hayes maintains that while getting information is crucial there will be times when you must operate instinctively. He adds, “Instinct is really a set of experiences that you can’t quite crystallize, but that you extract logic from.”
The most important part is to not wait too long as time is of the essence. The US Navy SEAL asserts that the impact of a decision can be lessened because you hesitate too long.
Be Adaptable and Open to Change
Acknowledge your imperfections. Sometimes, decisions can backfire and result in losses. During such times, it is necessary to course correct before moving forward and it is important to be humble to acknowledge one’s failures.
“When making decisions, a lot of senior leaders let their ego get in their way,” says Hayes. “They think that reversing course is going to make them look bad. You need to be comfortable saying, ‘There’s new information, let me reassess. We’re going to reverse course.’ That is the ultimate sign of leadership because it’s a sign of comfort in your own skin and not needing to look good in front of an organization. Instead, you’re putting the organization before yourself and doing the right thing.” Being willing to acknowledge your mistakes and course correct also elevates you in the eyes of your colleagues. They recognize that you want the best for everyone and will in turn pitch in their best. Authentic leadership also includes being honest about one’s weaknesses.
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