Leaders Enable Other Leaders to Make Better Decisions

Every coin has two sides; for every Yin there is a Yang. When you think about leaders, you probably think about followers.  But in the world of influence, you might be wrong: many leaders seek out ways to influence others “leaders”, in order to increase their impact.

Social psychology – which deals with the influence of other people on one another – led to the creation of behavioral economics, which focuses on decisions of economic value. You’re probably familiar with some of the popular thought leaders in this area, including Daniel Kahnemann (e.g., Thinking Fast and Slow), and Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein (e.g., Nudge). The goal isn’t to understand the personality make-up of leaders. Rather, the focus is on helping people lead their life better and/or helping others do that, by changing the information available and how it’s processed to make better decisions.

I have the privilege of working with these kinds of leaders through many of the companies with which I work. 

  • At Vistage Worldwide, 25000+ CEOs join to make better decisions so they can be more effective leaders of their organizations. They participate in Peer Advisory Boards which serve as mastermind groups that help members resolve challenges to leadership, strategy, culture, etc. by sharing each’s experiences and perspectives, so they can gain fresh insights.
  • At Age Brilliantly, an interactional community platform for adults who want to lead a long, fulfilling lives, seek information, inspiration, support and tools from peers, experts and service providers, in order to make better life decisions as they navigate their lifepath to 100+.

In their book, Decision Leadership: Empowering Others To Make Better Choices,  Don Moore and Max Bazerman provide an overview of the things you can do to create environments which prompt others to make better decisions to influence their lives and those of others.  They note positive things we can do, including making space for thoughtful deliberation (as the two organizations I noted allow you to do), as well as identify the decision-biases that will deter good decision-making. Four of the ones that they mention include:

  • Availability bias –limiting the decision to the information currently available
  • Confirmation bias – seeking out information that confirms what we already thought 
  • Representativeness – accepting the correlations of information rather than seeking for cause-effect
  • Framing – making decisions based on the framework of the information, instead of the actual data.

For a more comprehensive list, see 12 Cognitive Biases.

At Presentation Excellence, we help clients learn how to influence the audience so they can make effective decisions to “buy-in” to their proposition. Similarly, we help the presenters learn how to withstand the biases that can lead to a bad decision. Are you paying attention to the factors leading to both? Given that our attention spans continue to shrink, paying attention to such factors becomes more and more important.

If you need help – as a presenter or decision-maker – let us know!

How Does Your Leadership Style Impact on Your Company?

How well do we really know our cultures?

For a CEO, it’s important that you have confidence in your vision for the company and decisions. Uncertainty weakens the willingness of some team members to follow initiatives. For this reason, smart CEOs and other leaders seek out information from a diverse group of experts and as well as peer leaders who have experiences that are relevant (e.g., Vistage Worldwide). In addition they build their Emotional Intelligence (EQ) muscles, especially self-awareness.

In the blog post 4 Ways Confident Leadership Helps Everyone, Building Champions shares four benefits leaders get when they are confident and project that confidence to their team:

  • Builds loyalty among team members who want assurance
  • Support confident communications by the team members to others within the company
  • Encourages strategic thinking by providing a foundation for more long-term thinking and planning 
  • Empowers direct reports to follow your lead.

Working with 25,000+ leaders at Vistage, who go beyond their Mastermind Group to engage others on our intranet (MyVistage.com), I see how they build their confidence with frank and timely discussions and then report on the positive results that occurred.

Take the time to build your leadership skills and confidence, so you, too, can have a more significant impact on your leadership team and, in turn, your customers.

Leaders: Keep Your Culture True to Your Ethical Principles

Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with lots of high integrity leaders who are at the cutting edge of developing services and products, and transforming their organizations so they can do more for customers while enabling staff to grow personally and professionally. For instance, as a Master Chair with Vistage Worldwide, a 65+ year old leadership development organization which has serviced over 100,000 leaders, we deliver on our mission: “to help high-integrity leaders make great decisions that benefit their companies, families and communities.”

It therefore disappoints me when large, influential organizations ignore their own cultural values and tolerate unethical conduct. Unfortunately, it happened again.

Several years ago, I addressed this issue when it became clear to me that the injuries and deaths caused by General Motors’ continued use of defective ignition switches. I noted it in our Presentation Excellence blog just before traveling to China to teach a course there. One member of the business press tracked me down and interviewed me to find out why I pointed the finger at the company culture. I explained that too many people had to know about the fiasco since it lasted for several years before the company took responsibility for it. It clearly was not a rogue player.

Similarly, Wells Fargo culturally accepted the violation of its standards., when it engaged unethical sales practices that included opening around 3.5 million fake accounts without customer authorization. 

This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged EY (Ernst & Young) for a significant number of audit professionals cheating on the ethics component of the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license exams and for withholding from the agency evidence of misconduct. EY admitted to cheating on CPA exams and continuing professional education courses required to maintain CPA licenses. The penalty price—$100 million – the largest penalty ever imposed against an audit firm by the SEC. In 2019, the SEC fined KPMG $50 million for cheating on internal training tests.

How did cheating become acceptable? Shane Goodwin, associate dean for Executive Education and Graduate Programs at the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University said that these issues at EY “largely stem from a ‘culture of tolerance,’” Goodwin says. It’s the responsibility of the board and the CEO to “set the tone of integrity,” he says. “An issue like this happens easily” when there’s room for the “classic ‘fraud triangle’— motive/pressure, opportunity, and rationalization,” Goodwin explains. “This is how you had a huge issue at Wells Fargo and others,” he says.

The motive/pressure was to get and stay certified, combined with an easy opportunity to cheat and “a simple rationalization that others do it, and ‘it’s not really a big deal,’” Goodwin says. “It’s just a check the box process.”

With our society continuing to tolerate such abuses, we all need to be more vigilant. As we move into the post-pandemic world – with increased virtual and hybrid workforces – and a larger number of independent workers handling gig assignments, the pressures to cut ethical corners is likely to increase. Leaders: hold fast to your ethical principles and empower others in your company to make sure the culture reinforces it, daily. Join organizations, like Vistage, where you can work with other high-integrity peers, who can provide input on how to identify potential challenges to your company’s ethical challenges and resolve them before they gain traction. And if you want additional support, feel free to contact us!

To Win in the Roaring 20s, Build a Strong Leadership Pipeline

The next few years present significant leadership challenges. Our workforce, workplace, and potential use of automation, are changing everything.  We need to make the right leadership investments now to build successful companies with sustainable growth. 

Over the last decade, I’ve been a Vistage Chair(man) working with NYC CEOs to leverage Vistage’s award winning 60+ year leadership ecosystem to become better leaders and build sustainable growth companies. I’m now involved with two other programs that I want to bring to your attention.

  • Developing Leader Program-Overview. The”Emerging Leader” program helps individual stars and managers to develop leadership skills, habits and acumen using an ongoing program involving workshops, practicums and mentoring from your company’s existing leaders. 
  • Vistage Inside. The key to sustainable growth is for the executive team to be running the company, rather than have everyone turn to the CEO. Top teams don’t come together by magic. Improving their performance as teams should be an explicit goal realized through explicit means. With 60+ years of hands-on leadership development experience with over 100,000 companies, they created this program. Learn more by reading these case-studies .

Want to learn more about leadership development? Contact me at jerry.cahn@vistagechair.com and we can schedule a time to discuss it. If you’re not in NY, I can connect you to Vistage Chairs, throughout the country.  Let’s get the right people in the right seats in your company to produce winning presentations and then deliver on the promises!

Make Better Decisions

The ultimate purpose of making presentations to an audience is to guide their decisions on an issue. Whether the presentation is designed to inform, educate, inspire, motivate or activate the audience, the speaker’s job is to provide the logical and emotional foundation to enable the audience to make the desired decision.

Social scientists have identified countless many variables that affect the degree to which the message communicated will be compelling and persuasive. Robert Cialdini, a social psychologist is a recognized expert in this area (e.g., Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and Pre-Suasion: Channeling Attention for Change). As a social psychologist who created businesses (Brilliant Image and Presentation Excellence) to help over 5000 leaders make more effective presentations), we came up with an easy-to-remember foundational formula to guide our clients: ADAP: Audience-Driven, Authentic Presentations.

As a Vistage Chair, Executive Coach, and CEO of Age Brilliantly, my mind has been focused on the other side of the room: how to help people making decisions make the best ones possible. In the former roles, the goal is on leadership and personal decision-making; in the latter, the goal is to map out our and mange one’s life so adults can lead fulfilling lives which may well last till 100+.  For instance, we know that there are many conscious and unconscious variables that affect decision-making such as blind-spots, cognitive dissonance, etc. Even the type of decision matters, as Daniel Kahneman, et al. have shown with System I and System 2 thinking (e.g., Thinking Fast and Slow).

As a result, I reread an excellent book discussing ways in which we can increase the odds of making  better decisions: Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath. As I start using more discipline to my own decision-making, and influence the others that I have the privilege of serving, I thought I’d share some key points.

The Heath Brothers identify “four villains of decision making”, discuss the many forms in which they take place and share real world stories so we can identify with the problem and value of a better solution. Here are the solutions to the four challenges:

  • Widen Your Options:  Many times the choices we’re offered are narrow: Should we do X or not? Should we do X or Y? The tyranny of OR is that we’ve eliminated our ability to think through other options that exist – and which may be superior. So when given a narrow option, think AND – what else might be possible. Often there is a third alternative, and often a fourth, fifth, etc.
  • Reality-Test Your Assumptions. Rather than accept the limited facts that you have, be curious and find a way to test or experiment with the assumptions. Years ago, I started supervising students who had little exposure to the real-world of working, and barely knew what their skills, passions and purpose were. The goal is to provide these interns (650+) with the opportunity to explore options and challenge assumptions in the real world.
  • Attain Distance Before Deciding.  Emotions often rule when quick decisions have to be made. High-pressure sales people (sometimes including yourself!) build on the emotions to get a fast decision. The better strategy is to give yourself time; get more input from other people who’ve been in analogous situations and can attest to the impact; distance yourself from the decision, by imaging what your old-wiser self (or other respected person) might tell you to do!
  • Prepare to be Wrong.  We want to be right and we become overconfident quite quickly on how we think the future will play out. Think through what might go wrong before it happens; for instance, a pre-mortem imagines what could go wrong and forces you to play devil’s advocate and uncover contrary facts and opinions that might go wrong. Is there “groupthink pressure taking place? Better to discover problems you’re ignoring before a poor decision takes place.

At this time in all our lives, as we make post-pandemic decisions for ourselves, our loved ones, our companies, our country, etc., think about the decisions you need to make and try to make the best decisions possible.   Then share with us which strategies helped you produce better decisions!

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September 2022