Every leader is required to make decisions. As you advance in your career the decisions get harder and the results or consequences become more significant. That’s why it’s imperative to make the right call.
About 8 months ago I was having a hard time as a decision maker. Whether to hire or not, add a service, expand into a new territory, which clients to take on, or even how to structure the upcoming offsite meetings. I have no idea why I was struggling. It was affecting my performance as well as the performance of the company.
This experience spurred me on to learn more about how to make better decisions; here’s what I found—these are my top five (5) keys to making better decisions.
- Have a Plan. We all know the saying, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”; well, I realized our company’s strategic plan was outdated and it didn’t reflect our growth or where I felt we needed to go. Decision-making was difficult because I couldn’t see how the outcomes would align with our strategic direction.
- Get the Facts. Making decisions with facts and insightful data is critical. Everyone operates with an opinion and with bias so it’s important to find objective data that can provide a clear picture of what has transpired—the past informs the future. Last year we overhauled our entire management system in order to access stronger analytics within our company. It’s critical as your company grows.
- Seek out Advice. You’re not the first person to go through a decision making slump. Seek out the advice and council of others who have been there before you. I’m fortunate to have an advisor at Relevention, as well as other seasoned business leaders that I can go to for trusted advice… I hope you’re able to find the same in your world. It’s also important to hear both sides of the story before making a judgment call on anything. The judicial system follows this advice and it’s important to understand the whole context of a situation.
- Be Open to Change. Effective decision-making requires that you to suspend bias of how things should work in order to assess a new, and potentially better, way to move forward. This approach requires extra measures of humility and openness as accepting a new course of action, even one that feels strange at first, very well might be the best thing you could do. Change requires more effort (and it can create some additional short-term stress) as you learn how to embrace a new direction, but it will be worth it; especially if the decision will help you achieve your purpose.
- Understand the Impact. Every decision comes with consequences. These are the pros and cons. As a leader, you must foresee the effects of your decisions and if the pros outweigh the cons. Easier said than done, especially when outcomes of a decision are truly unknown. Dig deep and find comparable decision from the past that can help inform the future and create models or examples of what the results could look like to see what’s plausible. Understanding the impact of your decisions can help to prepare you to be more flexible (so you can steer a moving ship) or more capable (so you can change course if need be).
Beyond these five (5) things I also try to journal about the more complicated decisions to help me through the process. It also enables me to learn because I document the results as I observe them.
Making wise decisions is a life-long project. I believe the worst thing you can do as a leader is to fail to act when your organization needs you to take charge and make the call.
Changing course on a moving ship is a lot easier than trying to get one going from a standstill. Don’t get stuck! Keep moving and make the best possible decisions given what you’re able to learn at the time.
Have a great day!