Early in her career, Tanny Crane had a hard time getting things done.
The president and CEO of Crane Group says she is passionate about her family’s business. That passion often drives her to lead her 1,200 employees with a sense of urgency, and that can sometimes prevent a business leader from listening to the issues and opportunities at-hand, reflecting on them and being able to make decisions.
“While I always have a sense of urgency, I’ve tried to temper that with a balance of making sure I’m listening to the whole story or whatever situation it might be, and then, with my sense of passion, making decisions,” she says.
Crane, whose business includes a network of local, regional and global companies in both manufacturing and the building trades, admits sometimes business leaders want to get all the facts and analyze every option before they make a move, but she can’t forget where the buck stops.
“While I do believe in teamwork and in consensus, there comes a time when a clear leader emerges — when the person has to make the final decision,” she says. “That’s something that we focus on: working as ateam and focusing on consensus. Bottom line, when the decision has to be made, the burden is on the leader.”
When Crane is facing a difficult decision, she collects all the pertinent information, tries to separate relevance of information quickly and concisely, finds the right people who have the information she needs, works with her management team to make that decision, and then moves forward.
“I’ve seen it happen: The leader of a company or an organization is having a tough time making a decision, and indecision is sometimes more of a problem. It can possibly flat-line an organization,” she says.“ Even if you make a decision, and it’s not the right one, as long as you can react quickly, you can make the move.”
Crane says that one reason today’s executives are struggling with making decisions is because they are preoccupied with multi-tasking instead of going through a communication process called active listening.
“We think we’re listening, but we’re thinking about the next question we’re going to ask or our attention has been diverted to something else,” she says. “We’re not really focusing on what that person is really saying. I don’t mean literally what they’re saying, but what they mean and what they’re intending to say. Active listening is separating out what their words are and what they’re really meaning to say.”
To become better listeners, Crane suggests executives stop working on their wireless handheld devices and checking their e-mail. Instead, they need to focus on becoming single-minded about the task in front of them. In addition to being distracted by technology, Crane says having so much information available from the Internet sometimes paralyzes business leaders from making any decision because they get trapped in the false hope that the next piece of information will give them the answer.
“At some point, you have to ask, ‘Do I have 95 percent of the information I need?’ and, ‘Does everyone buy in to this?’ and then you make a decision,” she says. “I’ve seen too many times where organizations, including ours, get stuck on that, and then people get frustrated. They can’t do their job until some decision is made, and they’re relying on that leader to make that decision.”
Crane says over the years she has learned that while the leader is responsible for making the final decision, the results are far greater when you have a collective group working on them.
“As you work on a project, you need to hear from everyone, because everyone has a skill set, a different perception and a different set of eyes,” she says. “Be sure that you allow everyone to speak. Not everyone may feel comfortable sharing their voice, but a good leader makes sure all the voices are heard.”
Crane says leaders can open the lines of communication by taking the time to determine the comfort level of their employees. For example, in talking with an employee, a leader may realize that the employee isn’t comfortable speaking in public but excels at communicating through writing.
“We need to be very sensitive and empathetic to our team members’ style,” Crane says. “They have an equal voice, and they have something to say. We have to find away to get to that comfort level to get that voice heard.”
HOW TO REACH: Crane Group, www.cranegroup.com or (614)754-3000