In business, being decisive is vital to good leadership. Being able to make a good decision that is well thought out and executed in a timely fashion is not always easy.
So how do you make a good decision?
The problem is that we only realise what is a good or bad decision after the event! And so we need to have skills and strategies in place to enable us to evaluate our choices and make a good decision. In turn, we are then able to say to ourselves, it might not have given us the right result, but it was a good decision at the time with the facts that we had.
Another problem is that worrying about the decision that we take can lead us to take no action at all! Too much choice can have a paralysing effect. There is a concept called the Paradox of Choice, which psychologist Barry Schwartz first introduced. The idea is that MORE IS LESS, that is, if you have too much choice, then you are less likely to be able to make a decision.
If you have one choice, then you have one option; you really don’t have a choice at all. If you have two or three options, you have the ideal scenario for making a decision, because you're not swamped by choice. Too much choice can lead to overwhelm which leads to procrastination, which leads to inertia. You don't take any action and you don't move forward.
As Theodore Roosevelt said:
"In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing"
Over years of working in business, I have realised this to be so. I now say, I'd rather make a bad decision than no decision at all. Being unable to make a decision causes me a lot of stress. I remember once trying to select a holiday and there were multiple dates available, different resorts and different packages to choose from. Planning a holiday should be a fun activity, but on this occasion, because of all the different options, for me it wasn’t fun at all.
So how can you improve the decision-making process?
Here are my tips for making the process a lot smoother and more comfortable.
1. List your options.
What choices do you have? Write them down. Choose your favourites or the choices that work best in the circumstances. Manage the choices down to just two or three, so that the paradox of choice does not come in to play.
2. Do your homework.
Research all the options. Do your due diligence. Determine the facts. Do any groundwork you can do about the decision to be made and evaluate what the consequences might be.
3. Give yourself time.
Avoid knee-jerk reactions. Never make a decision when your emotions are in charge. Wait until you are acting rationally and not acting out of fear or anger.
4. Learn from your mistakes.
If you are frequently making bad choices, examine why that is. Consider the process you're using. Are you making decisions on a whim, or too quickly? Are you collecting all the facts? Whatever it is, make sure you learn from your mistakes. Use them to improve your future choices.
5. Don't overthink it.
We can spend far too long weighing up the pros and cons and this can cause stress, so don't think about it for too long. Ponder it at a subconscious level, but do not keep going over it on a conscious level. It's incredible how the brain works. Allowing a problem to just be, can often allow you to percolate ideas, solutions and remedies.
6. Clear any assumptions.
Try not to make assumptions about the choices you have. Be as objective as possible. Try not to pre-judge the outcome based on previous experience.
7. Trust your instincts.
Listen to your gut. When making a decision, NEVER ignore any intuition you might have. There is always a reason for this primal response and it is always best to pay attention to it.
8. Consider other perspectives.
Seek counsel from friends or trusted colleagues. Their perspectives might give you food for thought. They might validate the decision you wish to make or highlight any problems you have not yet considered.
9. Talk to yourself like a trusted friend.
If you have made poor decisions in the past, this can adversely affect your ability to choose well in the future. You might be prone to negative self-talk. Be aware of this and talk to yourself differently. A friend wouldn't focus on the negative necessarily. He wouldn't focus on the mistakes that you've made previously; he would be more objective.
10. Flip a coin.
No, this is not a joke. This is a genuine strategy. Flipping a coin is often a last-ditch attempt to get into action. You know which direction you want to go in, but you just need that nudge. Any disappointment you feel from the result is not a bad thing either – it tells you definitively which choice you want to take.
“Decision is the ultimate power” - Tony Robbins