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My phone kept ringing red. I received a deluge of reports and the news continued to give mixed messages. March 2020 wasn’t just a frenzy, it was absolute chaos. But I don’t need to remind you – it’s hard not to remember those early days of the pandemic.
Then no one seemed to know what was going on. There are no “founder’s guidelines” for what to do if an unprecedented pandemic hits. In those moments, it’s just you and your choices.
Colleagues rushed to set up Zoom meetings and restructure their organizations due to the new economic uncertainty. And we all had to answer the biggest question of all: What’s going to happen?
In their illuminating story for Harvard Business Review, contributors David J. Snowden and Mary E Boone note that “Working in unfamiliar environments can help leaders and experts take a more creative approach to decision making.”
As the CEO of my company, Jotform, there were no easy answers, but I knew it was up to me to remain a permanent haven for my team. We should work together to develop new coping mechanisms. And it was also up to me to make several decisions. This meant that I had to leave my comfort zone and invent a whole new way of leading.
Why leaders need to choose the right framework for decision-making
When the environment is unfamiliar and challenging, we should not rely on our old ways. Instead, we must learn to identify the signals when a shift in leadership is needed.
For example, I know many business colleagues who were paralyzed when the pandemic hit. It took them a long time to change the way they made their decisions, which meant their teams were also caught in this limbo.
That’s the point of being a leader: people look to you for reassurance and guidance. We have to be very clear about our communication and our decisions.
Researchers Snowden and Boone identified several decision-making frameworks. However, I want to share some of the strategies that have worked for me during the upheaval of 2020 and have continued to help me navigate the years to come so far.
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1. Learn to make decisions quickly
toptecheasy.com contributor Sanchita Dash writes, “One of the most important qualities of being an toptecheasy.com is being able to make quick decisions that more often than not determine the fate of your business.” She wrote this in 2018, when this practice wasn’t nearly as essential as it is today.
A quick approach not only guarantees that you don’t get stuck, but it also gives your employees a greater sense of psychological safety – which will affect the morale and productivity of your organization in the long run.
There are many articles about why we need to slow down to make the smartest decisions during a crisis, but I believe leaders also need to develop agility. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should go into stressful overdrive thinking that you have to quickly solve every problem that pops up. You will only make yourself sick and burn out.
I’m generally a big believer in growing slowly and steadily as a business – it’s one of the main pillars of my business. But when it comes to decision making, I agree with the founder of Polash Ventures, Lalit Upadhyay. “As an toptecheasy.com, you have to make decisions quickly, as the active time frame for a current decision will be very short,” he tells Dash. “The result of the decision someone made will tell whether it was a quality decision or not.”
Moreover, he affirms that “the entrepreneurial journey is all about making the right decisions with confidence and positivity firmly at the right time, one after the other.”
Related: Want to be more memorable to people? Ask yourself this one thing.
2. Avoid micromanagement during a crisis at all costs
Lately I’ve been writing a lot about the importance of cutting hard deadlines from your organization. Why? Because people who feel the pressure to produce will not do their best. In the case of my form building company, I’ve come up with a leadership framework that is about avoiding any kind of micromanaging. It has no place here.
This was especially vital to turn off in 2020, when the world came to a standstill. Suddenly, every employee was forced to juggle their work and personal responsibilities like never before – and flexibility was not only a nice option, it was mandatory. We couldn’t demand that our teams complete a project in the same way they have done in the past few days.
Earlier this year, Ivan Popov made the case for why leaders should stop micromanaging their teams and learn to let go. “Employees around the world work in a constantly changing and evolving work environment,” he wrote toptecheasy.com. “While leaders and managers should focus on ways to improve their team’s overall work experience, they shouldn’t forget about their leadership strategies either.”
Keeping the above in mind, your decision-making framework should not only be about your bottom line, but also lead to a smoother workflow and a more dynamic culture.
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3. Don’t try to find all the right answers – just act
This one is especially tricky for perfectionists who think they can burn the candle both ways to find the right solution to any problem.
As someone who struggles with this tendency, I’m here to tell you that the adage rings true when it says “done is better than perfect.”
Snowden and Boone note that while the pandemic calls for decisive action, good leadership also requires “openness to change on an individual level.”
They add, “Truly adept leaders will not only know how to identify the context in which they are working at any given time, but also how to adapt their behavior and their decisions to that context.”
I humbly attribute my ability to manage this crisis with a dose of confidence and grace to my agility as a leader.
Related: Using Mental Models to Make Better Decisions Faster