What are our next steps? Who can handle this important project? Which email do I respond to next and which can wait? As leaders we make many decisions in a day. So when a Harvard Business School study showed that 80% of business decisions are taken for emotional reasons, it resonated with me.
As a coach to executives and entrepreneurs, I hear a lot of the thinking that goes into decision making. With many of our clients we use a PXT, a tool that tells us about the learning aptitude, behaviour traits and interests. One of those behaviour traits is subjectivity versus objectivity. The ability to be objective and think clearly is when making decisions defines objectivity. On the other hand, finely tuned intuition or going with your gut may seem to be working for you.
So how can we increase our decision making success as leaders?
When you're the only one making the decision, try one of these techniques.
1. Cost-Benefit Analysis
Before reaching the ultimate decision, it’s important to weigh the pros and the cons to ensure that you’re making the best decision possible. This requires a cost-benefit analysis, in which you examine the outcome to every possible route (both positive and negative). This will help you see the opportunity costs, or the things you miss out on when one decision is preferred over another.
2. Narrow Your Options
To simplify the cost-benefit analyzing, limit yourself to fewer options. When more choices are presented to us we have greater the difficulty in making a final decision. More choices can lead to more regret because we consider all of the missed possibilities and worry whether we could have chosen one of the many other routes that were available. As such, narrowing your options will lead to greater peace of mind.
3. Evaluate the Significance
How much time should you spend mulling over a potential decision? Ten seconds? Ten minutes? Ten hours or more? It all depends on what’s at stake. To minimize agonizing indecision, determine the significance of a decision. Ask yourself, how great an impact it will have on you or on people you lead and care about. Is this consistent with our vision and values? Considering our resources, how much time, money or other resources will be required? Make sure you set a deadline and/or budget up with this in mind.
4. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
If it’s a simple decision, remember to keep things in perspective and keep your timeframe for decisions to a minimum. This is closely tied with evaluating the significance of a decision — if it won’t affect you or others in a significant way, then don’t waste time endlessly debating between your options.
5. Do Your Research
When it comes to making major decisions, such as hiring a new executive, or developing your leadership team, putting in the time and effort can mean the difference between meeting your objectives or relentless frustration.
6. Get a Well-Informed Opinion
It’s more than just researching the facts and logistics of a decision — getting a professional opinion can also improve your decision-making by giving you the confidence and reassurance that you’re making the right decision. Whether it’s asking your executive coach or a mentor within your organization, informed opinions can be the difference between success and failure.
Trying to decide with a group? Use one of these tactics.
7. Practice Conflict Management
Making decisions with a group seems to complicate decision-making. Multiple parties heightens the chance of conflict, so to prepare yourself for these situations, it’s always useful to practice conflict management. Identify the difference between a win-lose situation (such as compromises where one side gives up what they want to please another) and win-win situations (such as accommodation, when the two parties agree to give up some things in order to agree on other things).
8. Plan Ahead
When you have a group decision to make, it’s best to decide the details well in advance in order to increase the buy in of a group and avoid conflict amongst group members immediately prior to the event or change. While it dampens the spontaneity of plans, it improves the decision-making skills of everyone involved and decreases the likelihood of bickering amongst the group.
9. Take Charge!
There’s a time to give in and there’s a time to be assertive. If nobody is taking a firm stance on a decision, take charge! Otherwise, you’ll squander precious time trying to decide on something when you could have been out being productive and engaged.
10. Don’t Dwell on Mistakes
The greatest impediment to good decision-making is beating up on yourself for past mistakes. Living with post-decision angst and regret hurts your ability to decide on things swiftly and efficiently in the future, so instead of dwelling on errors and failures, make a decision. If it doesn’t seem optimal and has been given a fair chance. Another decision can be made. Remember learning is all about failing forward.