Choose or lose Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2009

Anton H. Germishuizen knows he isn’t going to make the right decision every time. So to balance that fact, he relies on his leadership style at Burt Hill, where he serves as a principal in the Philadelphia office.

“My leadership style really emphasizes being decisive, moving quickly and, if things do not go as planned, that you are willing to readjust,” says Germishuizen, who is in charge of 80 people at the architecture firm’s Philadelphia office, which posted about $10 million in 2007 revenue.

Smart Business spoke with Germishuizen about how to get buy-in for your decisions and how creating a vision will help you in your decision-making.

Q. How do you get buy-in for your decisions?

You need to communicate your ideas to the T. You can’t just come from above and say, ‘Look, this is the decision that has been made.’ You’ve got to sit with your team and say, ‘This is the decision, this is how I arrived at the decision, these are the factors that I have weighed’… and develop the rationale.

I think where leaders get derailed is when they do not communicate or have an open dialogue with their fellow leadership teams in the organization and when there is not transparency.

When leaders feel they don’t have buy-in, they can derail any process. It’s when there is transparency and there is a dialogue and a rational approach on why the decisions are being made that leaders have a stronger chance of implementing.

Q. How do you handle a person on your management team who disagrees with your decisions?

When you pick up resentment from people around you, that’s actually much more valuable than when people around you are agreeing with your position. I constantly try to really come to grips with the resistance around me because the resistance is telling me where my implementation on a specific decision is going to cause it to fail.

You ultimately need people’s buy-in around you no matter what you do. It’s the resistance that gives you that immediate indicator.

How do deal with resistance? You have to listen to it, and if you feel strongly enough that the resistance position is not that valid, you have to spend some additional time to conference and generate buy-in from the areas of the company or the individuals that are resisting. That comes through dialogue; that’s communicating and listening to each other’s point of view.

At the end of the day, though, you have to proceed. As long as you are working with people that understand your point of view and you understand theirs, you kind of make the decision and then you move on.

Q. How do you know when you are spending too much time on a decision?

Too much time comes in when you, as a leader, don’t have a clear enough vision of what your overall guiding force is on your business model. If you have a very strong mission and a very clear vision of where you want to take a business or what approach you are adopting, that helps you cut through a lot of the smaller details.

If you are spending too much time trying to decide … you probably don’t have a clear enough vision of what you are about. Usually, a strong vision will cut through a lot of the nonsense for you and almost tell you what you have to do.

Q. What is the first step to creating a strong vision?

You have to understand what your capacities and your strengths are within your organization, and then you need to stretch yourself. The reason we have grown and have done as well as we have is because we are always questioning and we are always stretching ourselves for the next goal.

We are never complacent. We are never comfortable with what our achievements have been. We are always looking at the next aspiration, the next best of class, and that keeps you active, keeps your mind thinking, keeps you looking at your competitors, looking outside of your industry for opportunities and out-of-the-box ideas for how you can really maximize your business. That’s a mindset that’s more of a cultural mindset because some companies just don’t have that.

What’s also important is the people you surround yourself with. Have people around you that have the same mindset that always are searching. Culture goes beyond just a leader. Leaders in organizations do two things: They lead with their own strong visions, but they also have to align those with what the culture of the organization is.

Sometimes the vision of the leader is in conflict with the organizational culture, and then you have to get those aligned. Strong leadership listens to the culture of an organization and then transforms the culture to meet his vision, but vice versa, as well. His vision needs to go and somehow meet the culture of the organization.

How to reach: Burt Hill, (215) 751-2900 or www.burthill.com