Who’s Making the Decisions?

by Rob Stam

This scenario happens all too often in our industry: the chairs in the conference room are filled with members of our team and from our client’s team. We present concepts for items such as a company name, logo, or ad campaign. The client gets excited about one concept and chooses it. We’re all excited to move forward.

But then, a week passes and they change their minds. Why? More often than not, it’s because someone else didn’t like what they chose—someone who wasn’t in that meeting such as a spouse, colleague, or friend. Suddenly the whole project comes to a screeching halt because of one outside opinion.

It’s understandable, right? Whenever making a decision, especially about something that will be exposed to the public like a corporate image, we want buy-in. We all want our ideas to be accepted and liked by everyone. If one person doesn’t like it, we start doubting ourselves.

Have you found yourself in a similar situation—doubting your decisions and seeking acceptance?

If you are a leader in any business or organization, big decisions can often be difficult to make, and sorting through others’ opinions can be overwhelming. So here are some things to consider if you find yourself in that situation:

  1. As a leader, you’ll never keep everyone happy, so don’t look for approval from outside sources before making a decision (this doesn’t mean you can’t collaborate with others to make a good decision, it just means that if you’re in charge, in the end, the decision is up to you). Decisiveness is a learned trait, and to succeed in leadership you need to be able to make a decision and take the responsibility for that decision. The more you look to others for approval, the more muddled the situation can get and less trusted as a leader you become.
  2. When deciding whose outside opinion to solicit, consider their perspective and credibility. From what context are they viewing the situation? Should their input be allowed override the opinions and recommendations of your partners or team? What message does it send to your team if one outside person can override all of their expertise and effort?
  3. If there’s an outside party whose opinion is valuable enough to solicit later in the process, involve them from the very beginning. If you don’t, it puts them in an awkward position. The last-minute ask may seem to them that their quick reaction holds value but their actual intellectual contribution does not. It puts them in a reactionary position instead of a proactive position. Is that a healthy context from which to obtain input?
  4. Trust professionals. Any time you choose to hire an outside party to advise you, you’ve done it because you’ve found them to be experts in their field. Their experience and education should override the opinions of others. Trust them to do what you hired them to do.

There are certainly times when that outside opinion can be the objective opinion you need to keep you from a bad decision. So by all means, ask for it. But ask for it wisely, and consider those four variables before that opinion becomes your decision.