Although we appear to be far away from any potential of encountering the Ebola virus, after reading and hearing the daily news, I can easily envision the heightened fear that’s beginning to occur amongst workers. Not only are general citizens becoming ill, doctors, nurses and other health care workers are also becoming patients with a number of them passing away from the disease.
Then, as fear spreads, we are seeing some health care workers refusing to work, causing a shortage of staff to help curb the disease. On the other hand, cabin cleaners at New York's LaGuardia Airport recently walked off the job to protest what they perceived as insufficient protection from potential exposure to the Ebola virus. They raised concerns about the lack of proper protective equipment as well as the quality. The one-day strike forced airline crews to clean planes themselves, which in turn creates additional health hazards.
And this is only one catastrophe! What about the recent loss of power and water in downtown Calgary? Over 2,100 businesses are suddenly not able to operate following Thanksgiving Weekend. How would you deal with the issues raised by the Hong Kong student riots, especially if you had an office and employees there?
Dealing with these critical and complex issues is becoming a common requirement for today’s leaders. It’s not easy and there is no room for procrastination. So, what do organizations look for when hiring a C-suite executive with exceptional decision making skills? Compare yourself against the following competencies.
- An ability to design an effective decision making framework that is integrated throughout an organization and ensures swift, high quality decisions;
- A clear understanding of who should be involved in decision making, when they should be involved and how they should be involved – for all types of decisions within the organization;
- The ability to shift through very complex issues and identify the key issues and their priority for action;
- An ability to quickly identify and understand the pain points of an issue and allocate responsibility for researching solution options;
- A clear understanding and recognition of one’s own individual biases and that of team members;
- An ability to balance data with emotional intelligence in order to thoroughly evaluate a situation;
- An ability to develop a high quality intervention strategy as needed and to ensure the appropriate support tools are readily available and applied;
- The ability to direct, oversee and follow-up on an implementation strategy;
- The ability to rally the troops, energize and mobilize staff to move forward against your challenge;
- The ability to develop communication strategies that help employees overcome fear and commit themselves to overcoming their work challenges.
In cases such as the crisis issues described above, executive leaders will need to go beyond their own physical plants and reach out to all its stakeholders including employees, customers, vendors and the various other elements in the supply chain. You will need to assess time/cost issues regarding both production and employee work schedules.
There are also several human resource issues incorporated into these crises. For instance, as in Calgary, 2,100 businesses can’t open on the next business day. What should a business do with its employees? Is the time off vacation? Leave without pay? What does your labor legislation say? What if your employees, such as the airline cleaning crews, rebel over work safety issues? What do you do?
Decision making in today’s C-suite is becoming ever more complicated. If this is a career direction you wish to seek, then start building your decision making skills right now. Take part in intensive senior level courses that have practical applications and practice built in. Look for assignments that are challenging. Usually the projects that no one else wants are the best skill builders.
At the same time, be sure to document all of your experience so that you are able to clearly express and describe your skills and accomplishments in the decision making area. Be ready with good examples when called upon for your interview.