Decision making can be a daunting task when you’re in a position of power, especially when you are aware that your decisions will affect many people and influence the future of your company or a project. Decision making should be a skill that you actively develop and hone to perfection. Here are some tips to help you with that.
Trust your gut
For rational and business-minded thinkers trusting one’s gut doesn’t seem logical and is often dismissed as not being a basis for making a decision. However, trusting one’s gut feeling is backed by science. Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio from the University of South California has concluded through research that rationality, emotion and the physical body are all intertwined when it comes to making decisions. Damasio believes that the only way to make good decisions is to do emotional processing beforehand. In the past many successful and well-known entrepreneurs have made decisions that were deemed illogical by their peers, but by following their instincts created long-lasting products.
Your body will always tell you when a decision is right or wrong and will steer you in the correct direction. If the thought of making a certain decision is making you anxious, then it is your body relating back to emotions it has felt in the past when a wrong decision was made. Wisdom comes not only from facts but also from how previous outcomes and experiences made you feel. Also, if you feel any hesitation at making a certain decision, then the answer should probably be “no”. Hesitation is a warning sign.
Perfection isn’t a promise of success
People will often wait for the right time or the right opportunity to arise before making a particular decision. However, the ‘perfect’ conditions may never come about (remember, perfection doesn’t exist) – and then a decision may not be made at all. Instead of waiting, take the leap as soon as you can after careful consideration. Not all decisions are going to be correct, no matter how ‘perfect’ the circumstances – but at least taking action puts you ahead of the game. Prepare yourself for any eventuality when making the decision; you can always adjust afterwards and build your wings as the wind takes you.
Decision making isn’t a solo venture, especially when the outcome will have big effects. Great leaders will seek counsel from a variety of sources, but they maintain control over the final verdict. When seeking this decision-making counsel make sure that the sources are valid. Having a lot of input doesn’t automatically add value – especially when the source it comes from has no merit. Also, having too much information from sources can cause confusion and make it difficult to make a final decision.
Here are a few things to think about when getting knowledge, information or data from any source:
* Is the source credible and reliable?
* What is the source’s track record?
* Will the source tell you the truth? Or will they only tell you what they want to hear or what they think you want to hear?
* Are there any competing and/or hidden agendas behind the source’s input?
* Is the source in it for their own benefit or for the benefit of the enterprise?
Remember that asking for input doesn’t exempt you from making the decision. Sources are not there to tell you what to do, but to aid you in making a better decision. Ultimately the choice lies in your hands. If everyone is too involved in the process, without a firm leader to say “yes” or “no”, then the process will end up taking too long.
If a decision you make doesn’t pan out as you thought it would, acknowledge the error in judgement and move on. Committing to a decision is admirable – but when it’s not working, it’s not working. Rather spend your time on rectifying what has gone wrong instead of trying to keep going with what you have. Realising that you’ve made a bad decision can knock your confidence – but remember the times when you made good decisions in the past, and use this as your guideline for knowing that you can do it again.
Also, be flexible in acknowledging when none of the available options are viable. If you’re having difficulty in deciding between different options because none of them work, or they don’t inspire a gut feeling, then take some time to find alternatives.
It has been found that people who are wildly successful take more time to reflect than their less successful counterparts. For example, Warren Buffett (billionaire investor and business magnate from the USA) has noted that he spends 80% of his time thinking and reading. Why? Because it provides a sense of perspective. If you stare at something for too long you lose sight of the bigger picture and forget what the motivation behind it all was in the first place.
After extensively weighing up the pros and cons of all options in your decision-making process, step back. Have you ever noticed that when you’ve been struggling with a problem, you solve it as soon as you’ve been away from it for a while? This is exactly what happens when one steps back in decision making. Your mind becomes less cluttered. Looking at something unrelated to what you are dealing with may inspire you and help you to see something that you couldn’t see before.