As a business leader you’re constantly faced with making decisions. Lots of decisions I’m sure, ranging from no‑brainers to complex and difficult. If you have had some formal business training, you may even be using a few decision making tools such as the pareto analysis, force field analysis, decision trees, six thinking hats, etc. If not, I’m guessing you’re deploying the scientific method you learned in junior high school pretty instinctively. Regardless of your methodology, either formal or instinctive, it’s results that matter. Here are four tips to help you keep your decision making skills sharp and effective.
1. Challenge your gut feelings.
We all have a tendency to gravitate to our gut feelings. Unfortunately, gut feelings typically arise when you don’t have enough information, the right information or any information at all about an important decision. If that’s the case, a red light should go on in your mind – and you should then challenge your feelings by soliciting feedback from others and countering your feelings with as many facts as you can. Of course if you have no facts, intuition is as good as anything when making a decision. But facts trump intuition, and good information will lead to a winning hand.
2. Accept the reality of limited options.
Let’s face it; most difficult decisions have little to do with the complexity of the decision. When the decision is tough, it’s usually because the risk involved is uncertain or the options just stink. However, to make the best decision you must willingly acknowledge your limited options as legitimate and then bring every ounce of your head and heart in to making a thorough decision, i.e. resolving the condition. Anything less will only address the condition temporarily; possibly causing more difficulty, and stink, in the long run. Accept reality for what it is and not for what you would like it to be, and follow through on one of those less than perfect options.
3. Take time to incubate.
Many business leaders tell me that their best ideas come to them when they are away from the front lines, e.g. out of the office, driving, flying, in the shower, etc. It seems that a relaxed mind or at least one that’s not on overload regarding a particular issue enables a higher level of clear and creative thinking. So if time is available, why not take advantage of this condition when making an important decision and give your thoughts a chance to develop more completely. Simply step away from the decision temporarily and then get back to it once your mind has had a chance to relax. Just be sure that holding off the decision, for whatever time period you decide, is really incubation and not procrastination.
4. Run it by the experts.
You don’t know it all. Business is just too complex for a business leader to be an expert in operations, finance, technology, sales, marketing, human resources, customer service, etc. When making a decision outside of your comfort zone, more importantly, your knowledge zone, ask yourself what’s the upside and downside of this decision? If you can’t live with or afford a less than highly satisfactory result on the issue, it’s time to bring in an expert. A real expert that is, not just a colleague whose knowledge of the issue is marginally better than yours. Yes, you will most likely have to pay for this expertise, but if it helps you get the results you want isn’t it worth it? If you have considered the above and taken an extra action or two where necessary, it’s time to make the decision. Beware of paralysis of analysis and go ahead and pull the trigger. Few decisions are perfect. So learn from them, grow from them and apply these four tips to your next important decision and get the results you want.