7 Rules Naturally Clear Leaders Follow When Making Decisions

I write about the power of clarity to create commitment and results. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.



If you make decisions by consensus, you waste a lot of time. But if you make decisions without sufficient involvement, you won’t gain the cooperation and commitment you need for subsequent steps and successful implementation. How do naturally clear leaders thread this needle? They consciously, or intuitively, follow these seven rules:

1. Process matters

If people trust and embrace the decision process, they are more likely to trust and embrace the decision. What makes a decision process trustworthy?

• Those who will be affected by the decision know what is being decided.

• They understand how the decision will be made and are confident the right people will be tapped at the right time.

• They know how to participate.

• They believe those making the decision are informed and working in the best interests of the organization.

• They know how to influence the process if it seems to be going awry (e.g., suffering from uninformed decision makers)

2. Process doesn’t just happen — someone needs to own it

 The natural inclination of most people is to dive into content without first establishing a process. Someone needs to get ahead of the game and explicitly establish and communicate distinct outcomes, steps, and roles that honor the characteristics of a trustworthy decision process.

3. There are only two reasons to include others in any decision

You should only involve people in a decision if you need their smarts or their commitment. While people often fall in both categories, those who only belong to the first group are experts who can help you make a smarter decision. You tap their smarts, not their emotions. The second group consists of people whose behavior is essential for supporting the decision. They absolutely must understand what, why, and how their support can make a difference. You must tap their smarts as well as their emotions.

4. Time is of the essence 

The time spent on any decision must be in proportion to the potential impact of the decision. Don’t convince yourself that everyone will be affected by every decision. That’s a lazy abdication of responsibility. It wastes too much of everyone’s time and all your employees know it.

Furthermore, time is often a luxury you don’t have. Windows of opportunity often open and close too fast to allow for inclusive decisions, no matter how consequential. In these cases, you will need to rely on good explanations and your reputation as a champion of transparent and trustworthy process.

5. Different people may be needed for different steps of the process

The reason for establishing clearly defined steps is two-fold and mostly unrecognized, or at least under appreciated:

• Too often, decisions are expected to emerge from a jumbled series of conversations where participants are rarely actually talking about the same thing at the same time. A disciplined process honors the natural, logical, and sequential steps in any decision (SOAR: Statement, Objectives, Alternatives, Risks). By making these distinctions and proceeding one step at a time, you focus the collective brainpower and never fail to achieve discernible progress.

• Once you think in terms of these four steps, you realize that roles vary depending on the step. For example, an executive may need to approve the objectives with input from implementers, but may then be ready to walk away and trust the rest of the decision to others. The people in the trenches may be best positioned to generate alternatives. Those most affected and accountable for results may be best positioned to select the most promising alternative. And experts may be the best choice for identifying risks. Establishing process steps before diving in is the only way you will successfully involve the right people at the right time.

6. Representation must be explicit

You can’t always include everyone who is affected in a decision. The numbers may be too great, the time too short, or the importance unworthy of that investment. The answer is representation. A clear, fair, and transparent process is a prerequisite for allowing one group to represent the interests of others. Both steps and roles must be explicit. People tend to speak only for themselves. If you want someone to work on behalf of others, you must explicitly and repeatedly make that clear to both parties.

7. Authority must be transparent

There are few feelings worse than investing your physical and emotional energy in making a decision only to have your conclusion overruled. All decision participants need to know who is making the final decision. Are they providing input, feedback, making the decision themselves, or helping to drive a group to consensus? Is the ultimate approver an individual, a boss, a small group, or a large group? There is no right answer. There isn’t even a preferred answer. But the answer is important. The answer depends on the time available, need for expertise, importance of the decision, number of people affected, and potential repercussions. Regardless of the approach, clarity is critical. Be honest and crystal clear.

As people become accustomed to fair, transparent process, especially once the entire organization has a culture of clarity, you’ll find more and more people are content to leave decisions to others and trust they will be called upon as needed. Productivity and empowerment increase with clarity. Use these tips to develop fair and transparent decision making processes.


by Sabrina Son on May 22, 2017 5:00:00 AM

Today’s workplace is experiencing a shift from employee recognition as being “nice to have” to “need to have.”

A survey by World at Work reported that 88% of organizations have a staff recognition program in place — this can range anywhere from Employee of the Month to bonuses or gift cards.

But these traditional employee of the month ideas are starting to grow a reputation for being inauthentic and, frankly, boring.

In fact, according to our 2017 Employee Engagement Report, only one in four workers feels valued at work — representing a 16-percentage-point drop from the previous year.

You can’t simply have a recognition program in place and assume that all of your employees will automatically feel as though their contributions are appreciated.

You have to have to come up with staff recognition ideas that actually work.

So what does a successful employee appreciation program look like? Each company is different, so what works for one organization might not work for another. But, generally speaking, recognition programs should be comprehensive and feedback should be given on a regular basis.


PS: The Definitive Guide to Employee Engagement


Before we look at some of the tactics used in successful recognition programs, let’s first see some of the more common reasons employee appreciation doesn’t always work as intended.


Pitfalls of Employee Recognition

There’s nothing worse than giving it your all at work and not receiving any sort of acknowledgement for your efforts. Anyone who’s ever worked for an employer that rarely if ever gave out compliments knows how demoralizing it can be.

One thing that follows in close second is receiving empty praise that has no meaning behind it. Consider these findings from CareerBuilder and Badgeville:

  • 50% of employees believe increased recognition would reduce voluntary turnover
  • 40% of employees who don’t feel meaningfully recognized will not go above their formal responsibilities

So if you’re going to praise your employees, make sure that recognition is genuine. Otherwise, it may end up actually doing more harm than good.

Barb Hurley, Operations Manager at Knot So Perfect Designs, explains the importance of employee recognition:

“As the saying goes, an ‘atta boy/girl goes a long ways,’ and it does. Getting a compliment of good job gives the person pride, confidence, and self esteem. It makes you want to continue to do even a better job. People crave compliments as well as approval. When the employee gives 110%, it helps the company or gives a good impression of the company. Why wouldn’t supervisors and managers express appreciation for a job well done? It also makes them look good.”

Ready to take your recognition program to the next level to increase employee engagement and create a happier workplace? Check out these 18 staff appreciation ideas that you can try out the next time you want to show appreciation to your employees.



  1. Lunch drawing

Keep in mind that recognition doesn’t always have to come from the top. If you have apeer-to-peer recognition program in place (which you should!), enter your employee’s name into a hat every time they recognize ones of their colleagues. The more kudos they send, the higher chance their name will be chosen. At the end of the week, draw out two names from the hat and let those employees enjoy a meal on the company.


  1. Social butterfly

Take to your company’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to recognize your employees in a public setting. Highlight who they are, what they’ve done, and why it was such a great deed.


  1. Birthday celebration

Allow employees to use a floating holiday for their birthday. They deserve a day off!


SOURCE: StockSnap

  1. Off-site day

Take the whole team to work off site for the day — work at cafes, libraries, or anywhere with Wi-Fi. You’d be surprised at how a change of scenery can really boost productivity.


  1. Sticky notes

Leave a handwritten note saying “thank you” and why you’re thanking them on a Post-It. Stick it on your employee’s desk so that when they come into work the next day, they’ll be received with a pleasant surprise.


  1. Rotating trophy

Find a fun trophy, stuffed animal, or figurine that you can pass around the office. Give it to an employee who has exemplified one of your organizational values, and let them keep it on their desk for a week. Come the next week, let that employee hand it off to one of their peers who has done the same.


SOURCE: giphy.com


  1. Surprise treats

After an employee has left for the day, stick a candy bar, their favorite snack, or treat in their desk drawer. They’ll be able to start their day off on the right foot after they’ve found their tasty surprise.


  1. Recognition Day

Organize a formal employee appreciation day at work. Make a whole event out of it with food, awards, and team-building activities.


SOURCE: StockSnap

  1. Daily wins

If an employee landed a huge account or pushed a new feature live, have them let their peers know. Post it on your internal chat or announce it during meetings. It’s a great way for employees to highlight their own achievements in front of their colleagues.


  1. Project plan

Let employees pick out an upcoming special project to work on. It shows that you trust them to keep accountable for their responsibilities. It can also serve as a professional development opportunity where workers get to try new things.


  1. Wall of fame

Snap photos of your employee’s accomplishments or take candid shots of them hard at work. Celebrate their contributions by creating a collage showcasing their blood and sweat — and hopefully not their tears.


SOURCE: giphy.com


  1. Spontaneous treats

Bring in donuts one morning or chilled drinks on a hot afternoon. Let your employees take a quick break to kick back and relax before they go back to the task at hand.


  1. Show off recognition

Have employees send each other kudos, whether through a peer-to-peer recognition platform or physical cards. Display them around the office so everyone can see all the great things that have been happening around the company.


  1. Send a card

Rather than giving employees a pat on the back or high five, send a card to their home. Snail mail has largely become a lost art. Who wouldn’t be excited by receiving an encouraging personal note unexpectedly?


  1. Cheer tee

Has someone done a spectacular act or gone the extra mile at work? Have teammates sign a company tee with a thank-you message.


  1. Prize tokens

Whenever you see someone doing something great, give them a token. Make them tradeable for prizes such as a bike, t-shirt, or a gift card to a store of their choice or their favorite local restaurant.


SOURCE: giphy.com


  1. Hackathons

You’ve probably heard of hackathons before. Let your employees take a whole day (or even just half) to work on a project of their choice either in groups or on their own. Then have them present it in front of the leadership team so that the top ideas can be implemented into everyday operations.


  1. Commute help

Transportation can get costly when you consider the price of gas, car maintenance, and parking — or even just a bus pass. Consider reimbursing your employee a free bus pass or giving up your parking spot for a week.


Some of these ideas may seem relatively inconsequential. But it’s always the small things that make the biggest differences.

Try a different tactic here and there with recognition to make it truly meaningful. Your employees will appreciate it and so will your organization’s bottom line.