The greatest CEOs make decisions all the time. They just don’t make them like most of us do.They don’t agonize and deliberate over decisions. They make decisions on the fly and they do it with swiftness and purpose.

How?

They have a structured, minimalist approach to decision making. The decision making process is as sleek as a fighter jet is aerodynamic.

In this post we’ll look at some of the greatest CEOs in recent history and I’ll show you exactly how their individual decision making approaches led their corporations into the history books.

On the face of it, decision-making sounds really complicated and scary. The truth is all great CEOs have a specific approach to decision-making – a clear decision making framework.

Sure, every great CEO operates with his or her own signature style. But, one thing’s common to all of their approaches: they have their decision-making rules in place long before they even approach a decision.

This enables them to make decisions quickly and consistently in line with their chosen direction. They also used this framework to delegate decision-making through their organisations.

Are their decisions always right? No. But are they always consistent with direction that the CEO decided upon at the start of the company’s journey. You betcha!

And it’s the consistency over time that’s aligned with one direction that has led these companies into the history books.

Another interesting thing about these CEOs – they used their decision making frameworks to buck the trend. They did something radical. They all did something that flew in the face of conventional wisdom. They zigged when the world zagged.

Let’s have a closer look at five of these game changing CEOs.

1. Steve Jobs (Apple)

Jobs adopted a minimalist approach and ruthlessly axed more than 70% of Apple’s product lines as soon as he was reinstated as CEO in an amazing turn of events (after having been ousted as CEO a few years earlier). He had one main focus : delivering spectacular customer experience innovative design and simplicity of use.He even cancelled the Newton PDA which wasn’t a very popular decision at the time. But Steve’s minimalist approach to product design was clearly in place well before he made these decisions.

2. Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway)

Warren Buffett is unquestionably the greatest investor of all time. His approach to making investments boiled down to buying into great companies when they were undervalued by the market and selling them when they were overvalued. Having started with nothing, Warren Buffett’s personal assets were valued at around $57 billion when he was ranked the richest man in the world. Buffett’s approach to decision-making around investing is very clear. If you’re not going to hold a stock for 10 years then don’t hold it for 10 minutes. Once again, Buffett’s decision-making framework was well in place before he made a single investment decision. He continues to operate with essentially the same decision-making framework that he had in the 1970s.

3. Jack Welch (General Electric)

Welch focused on three strategic circles and insisted that they rank within the first two globally. In 1981, Welch declared that his company would focus its operations on three strategic circles. Each of the businesses had to rank first or second in its global market. Any businesses that didn’t rank in the first two were disposed of. By 1988, its 300,000 employees generated revenues of more than $50 billion and net income of 3.4 billion.

Jack didn’t suffer fools. He got very clear about his objectives, developed a clear decision-making framework and   then executed on it.

4. Richard Branson (Virgin Group)

Branson focused on customers and not critics. This overarching approach helped Branson make controversial decisions to enter very competitive new markets such as airlines – something analysts frowned upon at the time. Since then Branson’s led Virgin into mobile phone services, financial services and expanded to about 40 companies that span a myriad of other industries. Like Jobs, Branson let his customers priorities direct his decisions. He successfully defied ‘conventional wisdom’ and made his mark in very challenging environments.

5. Jeff Bezos (Amazon)

Jeff Bezos has an uncanny ability to understand the truth of situations and how they may change in the near future. He uses this approach to defy conventional wisdom about how things should be done, and makes revolutionary game changing decisions.  Amazon has revolutionised the way we shop over the last 20 years and continues to do so.

How to become a great decision maker

Here’s the thing about being a great decision maker: You become a great decision maker by making decisions often. It’s like anything. You get better with practice.

Sure, you’re going to screw up quite a lot at first. Every one of these people did. But they got better with practice.

Decision making is a skill that develops over time. And you can’t develop the skill in a vacuum either. You can’t spend hours agonizing over each decision and then tentatively placing your bets. if you want to join the big league then you’re going to have to take risks. Often! But the more risks you take, and the more mistakes you make the better you get at making decisions.

You can do this

You want to become a great decision maker? You can. You want to walk into the history books? You can. Start by making decisions on the small things today. Decide on doing one small thing right now. Write it down on a piece of paper and then go and do it. You’ll be amazed at how empowered this makes you feel. It all starts from one small decision.

What are you going to decide today?

 

Featured photo credit: Richie, Robert Yarnal via flickr.com

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