Making critical decisions goes beyond research

Welcome to Teaming Up, a series by Wethos exploring the ten traits that make up a great teammate. 

Each week, we talk to Specialists within our network and bring in professionals from other industries to share their insights on one of the ten key traits surfaced in our 2019 Year in Review. This latest installation of Teaming Up spotlights Wethos Specialist Nicole McGarrell and her approach to employing decisiveness in teamwork.

As Founder and CEO of Sunny Day Marketing, Nicole McGarrell has been making important decisions for two decades. In 2018 she linked up with a Wethos Team on a project for FREE, an organization focused on helping the formerly incarcerated get back on their feet. We grabbed time with Nicole to talk through her decision-making process across projects, and find out what successful decisiveness looks like.

What does decisiveness mean to you?
It’s about making a choice in order to move forward. Some people may go ahead without working through every single area while others will take their time to fully evaluate, research, and analyze as much as possible before they come to a decision.

Tell us about a time you had to be decisive on a project. How did you navigate that?
A couple of years ago, I developed and planned a marketing event that featured experts representing various areas of marketing—social media, email, public relations, and so on. The whole process required decisiveness. I had to choose the venue, the panelists, workshop themes, as well as the best way to market the event! Sometimes I only had a couple of hours to decide whether or not a certain element should be included or left out. So I often had to ask myself: What was the flow of the day? What did I want attendees to take away?

On the day before the event, one of my panelists lost his voice and told me he couldn’t present the next day. Mentally, I freaked out for a couple of minutes. The reality was that people were coming to learn about all these different areas of marketing and he was booked to present about video marketing. I thought about making last-minute phone calls to see if I could replace him, but there was so much more I needed to do around the event. 

In a few minutes’ time, I found a video of him speaking at another workshop about video marketing and decided to have that be his presentation. When I told the audience the video marketer’s presentation was now going to be a video presentation because he lost his voice—and imagine the irony—the crowd laughed. I slid his video into the program, offered his contact information for follow-up questions, and it all tied back to the value of utilizing video marketing. That was one of the quickest major decisions I’ve ever made related to my business and it worked out great!

What thought process brought you to that final decision?
I made that decision based on what my priorities were: I still wanted to give my attendees a quality experience and I didn’t have a lot of time. If this had happened a week out, it would’ve been different. I might have had other options. So I had to ask myself: What’s the best way to move forward?

How do you balance not having all the research and having to just sometimes go with your instincts?
It ties into me being very aware of what’s going on around me and with my clients. Not every project will have all the information I need so I always have to be resourceful and learn more, whether it’s through YouTube, talking with others, or resource articles. If I’m working on a specific topic, I’ll ask myself: Who else is talking about it? It’s so helpful and insightful to hear directly from target audiences. Even talking to a couple of people adds to the limited research I may have and gives me a good sense of which direction to move in. 

I also refer back to my years of experience. I know certain decisions will typically go one way while others will lead to another outcome. Looking back at all the situations I’ve been in, I can usually get a sense of how things will turn out. I don’t think that should always define what you do because it can put you in a comfort zone, but having gone down a certain road before helps bring clarity to my decision-making.

In situations where you do have time for more research, how do you go about getting to the point of gaining enough information to fuel your next step?
I’m a researcher by heart. I tend to look at as many types of research as I can. I might go to the internet, magazines, old books, or just talk to people. I have a core group of tell-it-like-it-is business friends and while not everything they suggest is how I move forward, they do spark thoughts in my head to try new things to move forward.

Or I may just take a break! Sometimes my mind is just fried. I’ll read a book, watch TV, take a walk. Something that allows me to mentally reset. I find that when my mind empties out, new ideas come in, and by the time I’m back from a walk I have new ways to solve my problems. Even if I’m just taking a break at home, for example, I could look at my bookcase and come up with an idea such as releasing a collection of mini e-books to roll out a longer report promoting a client’s initiative.

What would you say to those earlier on in their careers who aren’t sure enough of their skills to make key decisions on a project?
I hear a lot about people getting caught up with imposter syndrome. You can’t get paralyzed though. There’s a time when we all feel we’re not good enough. Sometimes we get into a room where we feel and know others are more experienced. 

My advice is to share what you know. Know your limitations and when you need to refer to another person or source for input.

I’m a strategist, so I’m always thinking about different ways to approach a situation to make sure things work out the best way possible. Even if it’s not an industry that I know intimately, I can still suggest decisions based on my knowledge and experience.

Lastly, understanding where you are is critical, and being open to developing additional skills will be the game-changer. Everyone experiences being unsure of their skills at all stages in their career, it’s about how you go about improving the skills that makes all the difference.

Nicole McGarrell is the Founder/CEO of Sunny Day Marketing, and for over two decades she’s brought her insight, as well as bright and persistent demeanor to every client she’s faced, and every company she’s worked for. Over the course of her career, Nicole has worked with Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and nonprofits alike. Her portfolio includes Food Network, American Express, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce (BCC), and the City of New York.