Voices: Chuck Alvey | Time Pressured Decision Making
When you have a time sensitive issue, do the questions you ask get better or worse under that impending deadline? What does time pressure do to your decision making ability? And, do you have a peer advisory group comprised of people who know the right questions to ask? Following is a recent example of a challenge one of my members faced and how his peer advisory group helped him and learned in the process.
John (not his real name) called me late on a Friday with a time sensitive issue. Facing a cash flow concern in one of his companies, John had a potential investor offer to invest in one of his other companies that ultimately would help both. The pressure came from the cash flow concern and the fact that the investor needed an answer within two weeks. John’s question: how do I decide whether or not to take on an investor and give up equity in the companies?
Over that weekend I reached out to two of my peer advisory groups and by Monday at 3 p.m., eight of us, and John’s partner, were face-to-face around a table. John presented the situation and then I led the participants in several rounds of extensive clarifying questions. None of the peers were knowledgeable in John’s industries; one had just met John for the first time. John’s partner didn’t know many of the participants.
For the sake of space here and the confidentiality that I always promise, the details aren’t appropriate to outline. The outcome is important. After 90 minutes, John and his partner had completely revised the question because sometimes the issue at hand is ambiguous. The real issue became, “How do we secure and apply resources to the right areas of the right company over the right timeframe to reach clearly understood long-term outcomes.” John realized that under the pressure of time and the crunch of cash flow, the lure of ready cash looked like an oasis in the desert. And the crossover between the objectives and long-term outlook of the two companies had become clouded. The group helped John see both: where the problems truly were and what other opportunities existed. Thanks to the peer group’s insightful questions now they could more clearly see offerings and opportunities and how to potentially extract the best and most efficient, effective elements.
There are no final, single, simple, correct answers to any challenge. There are only options and choices. John had more work to do as we ended the meeting. He was grateful to the peers, and the peers expressed gratitude to him for sharing a situation, from which many of them learned key lessons. When I called John a few days later to check in on him, not only had he made well informed choices, he had improved his “on-the-spot” negotiating skills. When a key customer made a new request, he said that he used lessons from the group in that meeting and was able to counter with very productive win-win suggestions.
The take-away — questions are key! Do you have the right issue? Do you have the right peers in a group? Can you get that group together on short notice when necessary? Are you curious enough to learn from your own questions? What’s in your CEO toolbox?
Chuck Alvey is the Vistage chairman.
The new owner of The Crossing at Tahoe Valley is Second Bay Holding Tahoe, LLC, based in Redwood City, Calif. The 46,041-square-foot center was originally constructed in 1973.