Sometimes when Mark Pukita wants to be involved in the decision-making process at Fast Switch Ltd., he has to ask.
But that’s not because he’s not at the bottom of the totem pole; instead, he’s CEO of the $6 million information technology consultant recruitment company. Over the years, he’s worked to empower his 137 employees to make decisions on their own, something that they’ve fully embraced it.
“Our thought on giving people the ability to make their own decisions and live with them has really been taken to heart because now I’ve had to ask to be more involved in the decision-making rather than people coming to you and saying, ‘You make the decision for me,’” Pukita says.
Smart Business spoke with Pukita about how to convince people to be decisive and how to live with the consequences.
Q. What are the keys to successfully growing a company?
You have to learn to be decisive because, in most cases, there isn’t just one acceptable answer. If you put off making decisions to do things that you believe will grow your business, you won’t grow your business.
You may not pick the right solution it’s like there’s 10 ways to skin a cat. You may not pick the 10-out-of-10 solution, but you may pick the eight-out-of-10 solution, which is better than staying where you are.
Be decisive, and then just go execute. Don’t procrastinate. Just go do it. If it doesn’t work out, then take another path.
Don’t sit there and wring your hands, ‘Oh, we weren’t successful.’ Just chalk it up to experience and learn from it, and move on.
Q. How do you get members of your management team to do that?
It depends on the person. Some people are very decisive and some people are not. I think you can teach people to be more decisive or coax them and give them the opportunity to be more decisive.
In some cases, as a leader, you have to give them the right environment, if you tell them, ‘Hey, I want you to be decisive, but if you make the wrong decision, you’re going to pay for it, and I mean pay for it like I’m going to hold it against you for the rest of your career,’ people aren’t going to be very decisive. [Instead] say, ‘Hey, think about it; it’s your decision to make, and we’ll both deal with whatever the consequences are. If it works great, we’ll both celebrate. If we don’t, we’ll both take a look at it and we’ll figure out how to deal with the issue and move on.’
Be decisive and encourage your people to be decisive, but if they end up making a bad decision every once in awhile, don’t hold grudges against them.
Q. How do you get employees to feel comfortable making decisions?
You have to build a relationship with them where they trust you and you trust them, and you have to explain to them that you want them to take over more responsibility and make those decisions and you’re not going to hold it against them.
Certainly, you want to have the ability to step in, and say, ‘This was a bad decision, I think it’s time we go in a different direction,’ but at the same time, you have to communicate to them that what you really want to do is allow them to make their own decisions and live with the results, compensate for them if they were the wrong decisions, celebrate if they were the right ones.
In that way, we’re all going to leverage things because if I get them to make decisions and they practice making decisions and they get good at making decisions, that allows me to go out and do more corporate/client development things and not have to worry about the piece of the business that they manage, so everybody benefits from that. That’s really the corporate culture. They just buy in to it and go do it.
Q. How do you deal with mistakes?
We’re certainly going to make mistakes in running our business, but let’s not make mistakes we’ve seen other people make in our business. We try to say, ‘Hey, let’s look at what other people have done wrong and not do that.’
There are plenty of opportunities for us to go do things and not be as crisp as we want to be, but let’s make new errors not old errors. There are probably things that your parents told you when they were raising you that you thought were just foolish, but now that you’re a parent, your parents look like geniuses. They were right.
It’s that philosophy let’s look at what other people have done, and let’s do what they’ve done well and not repeat what they’ve done wrong.
Associate Editor Kristy J. O’Hara also contributed story.