Great leaders must be decisive. Without this quality, leaders can quickly lose credibility, respect, and trust. Nevertheless, making the right choices often come with an enormous amount of pressure. Harvard Business Review reports “one of the four things that set successful CEOs apart is the ability to make decisions with speed and conviction.” The stress of decision making can cause some to freeze in fear. Easily avoid this misstep by having a decision making process in place at all times. This article provides a simple, five-step strategy for making efficient and effective decisions.
Table of Contents
Step 1 – Start With a Humble Mindset
Steve Jobs famously said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Decision making becomes a lot easier when leaders pay heed to those hired as experts in their individual fields.
Show up to team meetings with humility and a listening ear. When leaders act with humility, they make decisions that benefit everyone in the organization. Jeff Boss, a leadership expert for Forbes.com, writes: “Since humble people put others’ needs before their own when faced with difficult decisions, they respect the moral and ethical boundaries that govern the decision.”
Step 2 – Look Objectively at Decisions
Making choices out of pure emotion hinders people from making decisions with a clear vision. When you make an emotional decision, it may actually move you further away from the initial goal. Cris Antonio for Idealist.org notes psychologist Daniel Kahneman explains, “there are two systems in the brain that collaborate whenever we want to make a choice.
The first system is in charge of quick, automatic responses . . . On the other hand, the second system is accountable for solving more complex problems.” Taking appropriate time when considering decisions uses the brain’s second system and helps point people in the right direction toward their goals.
Mastering emotions gives leaders perspective. People who let highly-charged emotions like anger or excitement influence their decisions may later regret the outcomes. Dr. Carmen Harra, best-selling author and psychologist, suggests taking time to recognize and react to emotions.
Calming activities that can help with this process include meditation, prayer, journaling, exercising, and brainstorming with others. Using these tools, leaders are better equipped to make wise decisions.
Step 3 – Use Boundaries and Strategy
As mentioned above, decisions must line up with a person’s desired goals. One strategy for making better choices is creating boundaries for each decision and staying firmly within these lines. For example, imagine making the decision of whether or not to invest in new automation software. When setting boundaries, it’s determined the business can only afford a $5K investment. Although a $15K software might look appealing, this is not within the boundary set for the decision.
A good way to stay on track is to ask two questions:
- Am I making excuses for my current decision?
- Have I compromised my previous choices by making this decision?
If you answered “yes” to either or both, you’re likely leaning toward an option that won’t best serve you.
Another great rule of thumb for making strategic decisions is to reverse engineer the outcome of your choice. Imagine yourself at point B and work yourself back to point A.
- What steps do you have to take to produce your desired outcome?
- Did you end up getting what you truly wanted?
- What sacrifices did you have to make? Were you okay with these?
Digital marketing entrepreneur, Scott Oldford, explains that strategic decision-making means, “you understand the impact you’re making…You have a grander vision, and although you may not know the exact road map that will get you there, you understand the fundamentals on how you will do it.”
Thinking strategically reveals insights that you may have not considered beforehand. To do this, take time to analyze every facet of your choice. If it doesn’t produce the outcome you were hoping for, look at other possible choices, restrategize, and make the decision that works best for you.
Step 4 – Weigh Pros and Cons
This practice has roots as far back as 1772 when founding father Benjamin Franklin recommended it to a friend. He instructed his friend to “divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns,” and write a list of pros and a list of cons. Lists of pros and cons help to visually see the aspects of the options in front of you so you can weigh which one best serves your company’s objectives.
“Deferring a decision until you’ve completed a pro-con analysis also provides space in which powerful emotions can dissipate, reducing the risk of an ‘amygdala hijack.’ The amygdala hijack is the cognitive phenomenon popularized by Daniel Goleman’s emotional intelligence writings, in which perceived threats can lead to extreme actions—often with undesirable outcomes,” writes Chris Charyk for Harvard Business Review.
Before making your final choice, review the pros and cons for imbalances. For example, if a choice has 25 cons and only two pros, choosing it points toward a negative impact. What choice on the list is more balanced?
Step 5 – Seek Wise Counsel
Making beneficial, effective decisions on behalf of others requires the advice of wise counsel. This means finding a group of mentors and experts who know the journey. A survey from The UPS Store found, “70 percent of small business owners that receive mentoring survive for five years or more, double the success rate of those that do not receive mentoring.”
Business ownership and leadership requires a constant hunger for knowledge and the desire to be better for the organization and the people it impacts. By learning through others’ insight and experiences, decisions along the way become considerably smoother and more distinguishable.
Today, technology also provides instant, infinite mentorship from some of the world’s top business leaders. When it comes to sharpening decision making skills or leadership skills in general, there is a plethora of inexpensive or free knowledge out there to explore through books, videos, online courses, and business podcasts. Setting aside time for development and continued growth helps people find the guidance they need for becoming great leaders capable of bringing value to others.
Put Effective Decision Making into Practice
Leadership strategist, Brent Gleeson explains, “As our organizations grow, the decisions generally become more frequent, more complicated, and have more serious ramifications.” Having a step-by-step system in place helps business owners, entrepreneurs and high-achieving professionals make efficient and effective decisions as these increase in impact and number.
Without a system in place, there’s no direction for making effective, wise decisions, and leadership can feel emotionally charged and haphazard. By being humble, mastering emotions, thinking strategically, weighing the pros and cons, and seeking wise counsel, leaders can develop a decision-making process that leads to smart, streamlined choices. Ultimately, this instills a sense of direction in their organization and guides others toward success.