Unpopular decisions: Marissa Mayer comes to mind instantly. Yahoo’s CEO made the choice to end telecommuting; she wanted her people under one roof. Mayer was criticized for being a woman – a pregnant woman, at the time – that disallowed a mode of work that let parents be home with their children. “Unpopular” doesn’t seem to do this decision justice. But, ultimately, being a CEO is not about being popular or liked; it’s about making the decisions that will keep your company strong – or in Mayer’s case, the decisions that will, hopefully, keep a company from going under.
While there are myriad decisions that CEOs are called on to make, there are two types of that are particularly tough.
What To Stop Doing
We spend a lot of time thinking about what we should be doing; we don’t devote as much time to what we should stop doing or get rid of. It might be a beloved product that we’ve been producing but is no longer making us any money. Google, for instance, recently retired its popular Google Reader, much to the annoyance of loyal users. Why? Because it wanted to devote resources elsewhere. Reader wasn’t pulling its weight.
You might have to make the decision to close an office, a division, or even an entire plant that is no longer generating enough revenue to make it viable. You might have to change your policies and procedures. Some companies have policies in place that were written before email. These need to be updated to take into account new technologies and realities. You might have to make the agonizing decision to lay off employees.
It is difficult to identify what needs to stop, what you need to retire, which cows go out to pasture. But it is also crucial.
Where to Invest
Capital is limited, especially in this economy. How do you invest your dollars as wisely as possible? How do you decide which one of twelve competing interests will be funded? Which is more important and more worthy of expenditure: new equipment, a new branch or operating division, a new product line…the list of demands goes on and on, and, in many cases, that pool of money is not getting any bigger.
The kicker is that no matter what you decide, you’ll always wonder: what if I made the wrong choice? What if I turned down funding for a program, product or service that could have been a real star for us? Make a point not to relive these decisions.
You can’t not make decisions.
Oftentimes you can’t even take time to mull and ponder. You have to act quickly. Make the best choice you can, given the information, education, training and expert advice you have. The bottom line is to ask yourself, “Is this choice going to add value to my organization?”