Decision-making Do’s and Don’ts

Seven top tips to successful decision-making.

Are any of the following scenarios familiar?

You’re terrified of picking up the phone and telling one candidate she’s hired and the other that he didn’t make the cut. 

A deadline looms, but you haven’t taken even Step 1—and your entire team is on hold.

You’re spending lots of time contemplating the potential benefits and fallouts of your options—and are nowhere closer to determining which of those options you’ll pursue. If those examples ring true, you’ve got a problem with decisions. Luckily, Heather Christie, the president of Evolve Global, a business and executive coaching firm in Naples, sees “stuck” executives all the time, and she has some ideas on how to move from wishy-washy to self-assured and to make better decisions. “Anyone can develop this skill,” says Christie.
 According to her, here’s how.

Figure out why you make decisions the way you do.

Some people struggle with decisions because they’re perfectionists. Others are resistant to change or prone to making snap decisions.

Assessments can help you understand your patterns. “Once I understand why people do what they do, then there’s an awareness and they can actually change what they’re doing naturally,” says Christie.

Define the problem clearly.

How can you be expected to make a good decision if you don’t fully understand the problem? “When someone gets really clear on the problem, the solution always exists within the problem,” says Christie.

Manage your emotions.

Fear, anger, surprise and other emotions can interfere with your ability to make good decisions. So it’s important to manage any feelings that might impact your judgment.

 “Those with a higher level of emotional intelligence understand their emotions better and can pinpoint the cause of them,” says Christie. “That allows them to set aside what- ever emotional noise there is that can cloud their decision-making.” When things like figures and facts guide your decision instead of fear and anxiety, it usually leads to a better choice.

Analyze and collaborate.

You can begin an assessment and analysis on your own, but solving the problem is best done with others.

“A lot of the people around you are really interested in helping to make good decisions and helping the company move forward,” says Christie. “If you’re not seeking their input, you’re sending a message that you don’t value their input. And that can be very damaging to a relationship.”

 Practice your techniques on low-impact choices.

Need to pick computer paper or a coffee vendor for your office? Hone your skills so you’re ready for the big decisions that could have mil- lion-dollar impacts.

“People don’t think small decisions are as big of a deal, but cumulatively they have a profound impact,” says Christie. “So exercise that decision- making muscle for even the smallest of decisions because it’s so critical.”

Ask for feedback.

“The reality is that some people just aren’t self-aware enough to know whether they’re good at decision-making,” says Christie.

Look at past decisions you’ve made to see whether you made them in a timely manner and if they were a reasoned or emotional choice. Then get some feedback on your effectiveness, whether from your team, assessment tools, an outside party like Christie, or some combination of all three. “Through feedback, someone’s skills and abilities show up very clearly,” she says.

Own up to and learn from bad decisions.

“If you made a bad decision, don’t beat yourself up too much,” says Christie. “I am a firm believer that we have to make mistakes in order to learn and grow.”

To ensure you don’t repeat your errors in the future, assess what you could have done better. Maybe you missed an important detail. Or maybe you acted with the best information you had and circumstances just changed.

“Everyone will experience bad decisions throughout their lifetime,” says Christie. “But very few people will take the time to reflect on those decisions to gain insight on where they went wrong. And that insight could be more valuable than any- thing else because it builds your confidence in making future decisions.”