As a mentor who has helped develop executives over the course of my career, I have always stressed one major aspect of the job: competent decision making. After all, one poor decision can send a company crumbling while good decisions can lead to expansion and increased profitability.
In the beginning, young executives in training need an explanation of how and why certain decisions are made. In time, they should be allowed the latitude to begin making business decisions. I like to inquire as to the process they went through to get from point A to B. Did they consider all pertinent factors prior to making that decision, including the possible impact one, two or even five years from now? I don’t second-guess the choices made; rather, we discuss the rationale and thinking involved, which is important in promoting confidence and understanding their thought process.
Anyone can make the “right” decision, by accident or even luck, but examining the process will help you decide whether or not you’ve got a true leader on your hands. The process is equally important as the outcome. Your budding executive should also understand the business from the ground up and how their decisions affect those in the organization.
Taking a Zen-like approach to business helps decision making as well. This style allows you to take a step back and see the whole picture, one where you must accommodate for personalities, organizational evolution and the long term impact of your decisions.
Mentoring that next generation of decision makers is both rewarding and vital to the future viability of any organization. Search for that person who enjoys being in a team environment but is also comfortable in a decision-making role. Most important, find that person who exhibits good common sense and strong judgment and you’re almost there.