Managing Your Manager: Influencing Decisions

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

This is the first post in a new series ‘Managing Your Manager’. In this post, we’ll be looking how to influence your manager in making decisions.

One thing I have learned as a manager is that making decisions based on information provided by direct reports can be very difficult. All too often, people bamboozle and confuse the decision-making process by providing too much information, and too much choice.

Managers are busy – and we tend to have a wide portfolio of responsibilities. Equally, we employ people to bring expertise and judgment into a situation, so that we don’t have to. This is what delegation is all about, after all.

But when managers receive wide choice, without judgment being applied to narrow the options to a small number of choices, it creates a problem. In most cases, that’s what a managers reports think they want. Wrong.

The Paradox of Choice is a very real concern. In today’s culture (been to a coffee-shop lately?), we’re bombarded by options from which we must choose. Making a choice from a huge array of options is difficult. It can be stressful – especially when the benefits of one option, when compared to the other, are intangible or non-existent. It’s a paradox, because the choices are there to give us what we want and make life easier!

Simple choice makes life easier, and choices happen quicker.

How To Influence Your Manager’s Choice

You can help your manager, and influence their decisions.

It’s so much easier for a manager to make a decision when the number of options are few. In my book, less than six is perfect. Any more than that, then I’m forced to spend much more time and energy weighing up the options.

Even better is when I’m given choices, and a single recommendation. If I trust the judgment of my people, then why shouldn’t I trust them to make a recommendation?

As a manager, (after probing a bit more into how the options were formulated) I still reserve the right to reject all the options, and request more. But this happens infrequently.

What Makes a Good Range of Options?

A decision is based upon facts and assumptions:

  • Assumptions about the meaning of facts
  • Assumptions about the consequences of the decision
  • Assumptions about what has happened in the past, what’s happening now, and what will happen in the future

Assumptions are good, if they’re arrived at through judgment and reasoning. So each option must be justified about what assumptions have been made. Each option may be based on different assumptions. This is good too. We don’t always get our assumptions right, and presenting the possibilities of different assumptions being true demonstrates good judgment too.

Each option must also be backed up with the Business Case – benefits to the organization if that option was to be selected.

Each option must also be backed up with the consequences – i.e. the downsides and impact on other organizational activities.

And each option must also be backed up with the resources required to execute that option: people, money, time, etc.

I find it helps a lot if the limited range of options is presented as a table, with each of the supporting factors (listed above) listed, and even scored.

If you don’t do these things, then your manager has to do it themself!

Taking this approach helps to make the decision as objective as possible. Which, after all, is what a manager (who is making a decision with the best intentions of the organization in mind) desires the most!

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