The Most Important Business Decisions You Make Are About People

August 10, 2015 Seonaid Charlesworth
 
 

The decisions you make about people are some of the most important business decisions you will ever make. Unfortunately, as humans, we’re not wired to make people decisions very well.  I’ve watched some of the most courageous and some of the most cowardly decisions being made about the people who lead the largest firms in the world.  I’ve learned what doesn’t work, what gets you into trouble and what we all need to do to make better talent decisions. No doubt horror stories spring to mind for you. 

Here’s mine. I graduated from university into a recession.  With perseverance, I translated a Psychology degree into a job in Human Resources at a hospital.  The work was tedious, the office was windowless and under the banner of reengineering, our group got smaller every quarter.  The bright light for me was the department head, Mary.  She was bold and found creative ways to fund our projects.  She seemed to see talent in me and started giving me interesting projects.  She had this infectious enthusiasm that made the most boring work imaginable seem worthwhile.  And we worked hard.  Mary encouraged me to find better and new ways to do our work, and I started to feel like I was making a real contribution.  I developed the confidence that comes from working wholeheartedly. After a week’s vacation I came back to work ready to dig in again.  I was told that Mary had been fired.  I heard it had something to do with her behaviour in meetings.  To this day, I suspect the decision had more to do with organizational politics and another senior leader who wanted to expand her portfolio by whatever means possible. 

The aftermath hit us all hard.   If you’ve ever seen good people leave, you know the apathy that follows.  People on our team lost their initiative to contribute.  They spent more time watching their backs than looking forward.  The organization lost an advocate for much needed change.  And sadly, Mary never recovered from losing that job. 

How do things improve if we don’t stop to understand what’s going wrong and how to do better? 

That experience sent me down a path to help leaders make stronger talent decisions.  I decided to study the science behind our decisions to understand why we make bad decisions and how to make better ones.  For the past 15 years, I have been helping companies make better people decisions.  From identifying the next high potential manager to helping Boards select the next CEO, from the smallest companies to the largest, I have learned how to make better people decisions.  

In this blog, I will shine a spotlight on how you make decisions about people, so you can improve the impact you have on your organization and the people around you. 

Here’s what you can expect from my blog:

  • A new perspective on the people decisions that can make or break your organization
  • My first-hand accounts of lessons learned by smart leaders who made the wrong people decisions
  • The truth about how we make up our mind about people at work

About the Author

Seonaid Charlesworth

Seonaid Charlesworth, Ph.D., is Senior Vice President of Succession and Assessment at LHH Knightsbridge. An expert in industrial psychology, she advises Boards and CEOs on C-level succession. She has designed succession and assessment programs for Fortune 100 companies, public utilities and government agencies in Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, and Brazil.

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