5 Steps to Good Decision Making
Do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the decisions you have to make? Do you ever wonder if the decisions you're making are having a positive impact on your team? The average adult makes around 35,000 conscious decisions per day, and we think it's safe to assume leaders are making even more. Knowing the pain of trying to figure out the best course of action in often stressful environments, we've put together some steps to help you make decisions quickly and rationally, while giving you space to review and reflect on choices to learn how to become a better leader.
Establish a positive decision-making environment. Everyone naturally takes the path of least resistance. But we all know the easiest decision isn’t necessarily the best decision! We must be self-aware to know how and when we make our best decisions. Research tells us to save important decisions for when you feel most alert, generally within one to three hours after waking up. Additionally, a series of studies done at Harvard University and the University of Utah found that our moral compass is much more accurate in the morning when we have more energy than later in the day.
Seek information. If you do not have enough information, it can feel like you are making a decision without any basis. Or worse, you could make a premature decision because you don’t have the full story. Take some time to gather the necessary data to inform your decision, even if the timescale is tight. Conversely, we have also seen many leaders get analysis paralysis because of too much information, so it is important to know when you have enough relevant facts and data to move forward.
Evaluate the alternatives. Imagine and forecast the outcome of the various options. An interesting thought process that can help is called inversion. It is spending time thinking about the opposite of what you want to help make you see clearly what you do want. Ultimately, use whichever process helps you determine which option is the best for that particular situation.
Take action. Your life is made up of all the decisions you activated. There is a difference between deciding to lose 10 pounds, and actually doing what it takes to make that a reality. Without taking action, you won’t get anywhere. It’s easy to give too much credit to the thinking mind. The thinking mind is “right”. Action isn’t so obvious. Action forces us to risk being wrong. The economist Tyler Cowen puts it this way: “Information isn’t what’s scarce; it’s the willingness to do something with it.”
Communicate, execute, and review. Carefully consider what will the situation look like when the problem is solved, and cast that vision to your team. Explain how the decision with affect each department or team when it’s executed effectively. Then follow up with your team and review your decision. Lastly, give yourself grace. No one makes 100% perfect decisions. Remember what Daniel Kahneman, Author of Thinking, Fast and Slow says: “We are prone to blame decision makers for good decisions that worked out badly and to give them too little credit for successful moves that appear obvious only after the fact.”
Decision making is a skill – and skills can be improved! As you gain more experience making decisions, and as you become more familiar with the methods and steps needed for effective decision making, you'll improve your confidence.
Until next time, lead on.
The Leadr Team.