Our lives are defined by our ability to make decisions. Our careers, relationships, health—anything and everything about our present selves boils down to the decisions we’ve made in the past, yet some of us struggle with decision making. We may have access to data, plenty of options, and generally have everything going for us, but when crunch time rolls around we seize up. Making a firm commitment to a decision eludes us. Here are a few of the labels that might apply:
* Over-thinker * Procrastinator * Slow to act * Analysis paralysis * Perfectionist
Sound familiar? Have you ever felt like you identified with any of these labels? If so then know that you aren’t alone. There are lots of us who spend too much time thinking about our decisions, and not enough time acting upon them.
One of the most common complaints from team members and team leaders, in corporate environments, is about decision making. These complaints can look a lot like knowledge or skill gaps on the surface, though if we dig deeper what we find often is that there is a lack of confidence or a reluctance to engage with decision making.
Do you ever hear questions like:
- Where do I find the XXXX?
- How do I do an ABC transaction?
- Is it okay if I (insert a simple everyday task here)
If these types of questions (and sometimes interruptions) are a regular part of your day – then you may have some people in your team who have low confidence in decision making. If you ask these types of questions frequently, especially if you’ve been trained, and on the job for some time, then you could benefit from some decision making practice too!
Here are some tips to help you or a team member move into a more confident decision making space:
1. Do The Research – where are the answers?
The first step in quick decision making is to ask yourself. . .
- If no one else were here right now for me to ask, where could I go to find the answer?
- Have I exhausted all of the possibilities for looking for the answer myself?
- What do I need to do to create a place to continue to get these types of answers for myself?
2. Set a time limit for decision making (2 minute rule).
Force yourself to take action through a self-imposed deadline. The time limit forces you to quickly assess the pros and cons while quickly coming to a decision. In most cases, it doesn’t have to be 2 minutes. 1-5 minutes will work. The exception is where you have a customer, or other urgent situation at hand.
3. Think black and white to decide
Ask yourself the following:
QUESTION: If I take this action (or make this decision), and I get it wrong, will that be impossible to live with? If the answer is “NO” – and for day to day tasks and decision – it is likely to be “NO” – then ask the next question.
QUESTION: What does my gut tell me is the right course of action here? Get your answer and then ask the final question:
QUESTION: Does this feel RIGHT or WRONG?
4. Decide via Random Choice
Sometimes there are multiple options that we have – and they all seem to have equal value, or a similar outcome. If this is the case – take these steps.
- Get rid of any that seem to have any lesser outcome (the worst of the possibilities)
- Write all of the other options down, each on a separate bit of paper – and fold the papers up. Mix up the pile then pick.
- Whatever is written on the paper – take action.
NOTE: If your gut reaction to the option says don’t, then pick again.
5. Create the REAL Worst Case Scenario (W.C.S)
A fear of failure or making a mistake can stop us from making a decision and taking action. We may well have created a totally disastrous worst case scenario in our head. Often what we don’t do is FACTUALLY contemplate a worst case scenarion.
Imagine this situation: You’ve created a new file that needs to be saved onto the company cloud server. You know the filing convention, but there is something about this particular file that doesn’t quite fit. Here are some options:
A: Ask a team member or your team leader for the answer.
B: Make a decision and save the file in the way that you think is the best possible solution for this file.
W.C.S – for A (Hey, I asked another team member – and he/she told me what to do. If it’s wrong, then it’s not my fault).
W.C.S for B: (imagined). OMG! If I get this wrong, then I’ll lose my job! – or fingers!
W.C.S for B: (factual). I will take action and let my Team Leader know what action I’ve taken (so the work is not lost). If I get this wrong, then my team leader will discuss a better file name. I can go back and re-save the file with the other name. I can take notes from the discussion, and learn something. Fingers are intact! Job saved!
Final Thoughts. . .
- Make a decision and act! In most situations, it is far better to make a decision than to procrastinate and leave something hanging. Opportunities can be missed! Ultimately, this can be more costly than acting and repairing an incorrect decision if needed.
- The majority of day to day decisions that we will make in the workplace will have multiple opportunities to be corrected if we get them wrong the first time – and for the most part will have minimal real negative consequence.
- Quick decision making is often equated with leadership skills. Those who develop this ability and the courage to make decisions and act, are likely to be seen as proactive – and viewed favorably come promotion time!
We learn from every decision we make. We learn little from avoiding making a decision (with one exception. . .we may get feedback that shows you that we should have made a decision).
Let us know how these decision making tips work for you or your team members.