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Ten Powerful Pillars of Decision Making

By Brad Federman

Originally Published in HR Professionals Magazine


In the business world, we need to be able to make choices with confidence and ease rather than wasting time due to indecision. It is imperative that we learn how to, not only make a choice, but how to make the right choice. Decision making skills have proven to be invaluable in the business world. Leaders are often forced to make split-second decisions that will have significant impacts on a business in the future, so it is important that they have the ability to make these decisions effectively. Since the world lends itself to ambiguity, it can be extremely challenging to know exactly what to do when faced with a difficult choice, but these 10 simple steps can simplify the process substantially.

1. Know Yourself

In order to make a smart or profitable decision, we must evaluate the repercussions of our options, both positive and negative. Good decisions become apparent when the objectives of the group align with the effects of a choice. For this reason, it is imperative to understand your own agenda. In other words, know yourself. It can be difficult to know if the effects of a decision will align with the ideals and goals of the group until that decision is made. This is why reflection can be beneficial. What were some similar decisions made in the past? What did they result in? Using reflection as a road map to determine whether or not a decision’s effects align with both your agenda and that of the group is of exponential value.


2. The Head and the Heart

A decision needs to appease both the ‘head’ and the ‘heart’in order to be considered “good.” If your brain tells you that a decision is a poor one on paper, then obviously it is not the best option for you or your company, but the decision should also feel good. Human instinct or intuition is a powerful tool that should not be ignored, so it should be used rather than pushed away.   Your gut feeling is there for a reason, don’t ignore it, verify it. 


3. The No-Decision Decision

Before making a decision, we should evaluate the effects of not making one. By doing this, we may be able to determine the unspoken deadline for the decision. Oftentimes,you will realize that the decision is not nearly as crucial or as time-sensitive as you thought, thus taking away a lot of pressure that can cloud judgment and could cause you to make a poor choice.


4. The Now and Later

Even the smallest decisions have short-term and a long-term effects. In order to consistently make good decisions, we must pay attention to both of these. Many people hastily make decisions in an attempt to solve an immediate problem without realizing or understanding the negative repercussions that their decisions could have in the future, but the long-term effects are just as, if not more, important than the short-term effects.


5. Devil’s Advocate

Often, we make decisions without thinking through every consequence,both negative and positive.  It is human nature to assume that our first conclusion is the best one. That is rarely the case. There is only one, surefire, way to ensure the strength of a decision- argue it. Set any given conclusion up against a barrage of strong rebuttals. If that conclusion is still standing post scrutiny, it must be solid. You’ll often discover flaws associated with any decision after this process, especially if others are allowed to scrutinize it, thus giving you a better overall understanding of the decision you are about to make.


6. The Plan

For certain decisions, having a formula or strategy in place can prove to be beneficial. People tend to second-guess themselves rather than just making a choice, but having a formula in place can help you make better decisions, serve as a trigger for a decision, and keep indecision away, thus saving you and your employees a lot of time.


7. Bypassing the Biased Barrier

In high-pressure situations, people tend to struggle with making strong, informed decisions because they are focused on too many things at one time.   That is when our bias kicks in.  Find ways to relax and clear your head.  Take a walk.  Read a chapter of a book.  Actually leaving the decision for a short while can lead you to an answer. 


8. The Imperfection of Perfection

Many times good is good enough.  In reality, it is very rare that a decision is perfect or needs to be. Sometimes there simply are not any good decisions, but rather than dwelling on whether or not a decision is “perfect,” focus on execution. Adjustments can always be made later, but initially, the enactment of a decision is imperative.


9. Eradicate Indecision

Indecision can be detrimental to a company. The longer you spend making a decision, the less you will trust yourself,until eventually, you are incapable of making a decision. By setting a specific deadline you force yourself to make a choice rather than wasting time that could be spent doing more productive things. Public deadlines often work better than private ones because they force accountability.  You may not be sure about your decision at the time of the deadline, but whatever you decide, it will most likely be much better than not making one.


10. Asking is Advantageous

Even if the decision is solely yours, it is foolish and irresponsible not to get the advice or perspective of others. Whether you get in touch with the board of directors or employees, others can provide insight that will help you make a better, more informed decision. It can also be helpful to contact people who have been in similar situations in the past, whether they have any relation to the decision you are making or not. Their experience gives them wisdom, and it could be very helpful to you if you are struggling to make a choice.

Indecision tends to be the worst decision a person can make, and it is dangerous to leave matters up to chance. At the end of the day, you just need to trust yourself, apply your knowledge, and work with others. You could always flip a coin, but when push comes to shove, do you really want to settle for 50/50?

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