16 Essential Strategies To Improve Your Decision-Making Skills
Originally Published on Forbes
A decision-maker within a business doesn't have the luxury of indecision. With each pause in making critical decisions, the risk of issues arising increases. Executives in companies therefore need to hone their decision-making abilities. Like a blade, well-honed decision-making skills can put a sharp end to problems before they show up.
But how can executives find effective ways of increasing their ability to make split-second decisions? How does an executive anticipate what those decisions will entail? To help leaders who seem to be struggling, 16 members of Forbes Coaches Council offer their thoughts on how decision-makers can sharpen their skills, and explain why their approaches are valid.
1. Determine What's In It For You
Indecision has to do with how we manage our self-interests and attachments to people, as well as memories of events and experiences. Start by determining what’s in it for you. Recognize your emotional attachment to the people involved in the situation. Name what past memory is triggered by the current situation. Work with a trusted partner to put in place safeguards and build with what is observable. - Mirella De Civita, Ph.D., PCC, MCEC, Papillon MDC Inc.
2. Listen To Your Three Brains
Yes, you have three. We all do. Your cephalic (head) brain is best for reasoned problem-solving, decision making, creativity and empathy. The cardiac (heart) brain is the seat of passion, compassion and values. The enteric (gut) brain is home to courage, self-protection and who you are at your core. Listen to all three brains. Which one should guide this decision? - Brian Gorman, TransformingLives.Coach
3. Take The 12-Step Approach
The 12 steps are a battle-tested approach to manage the unmanageable and lead through a hellacious time. By learning to apply these life-changing principles, we find wisdom in acceptance, strength in honesty and courage in the face of chaos. We embrace progress, not perfection. We learn that gratitude and connection are superpowers. We go within to discover wisdom and reach out to connect. - Karen J Hardwick, MDiv., MSW, Karen J Hardwick Inc.
4. Pressure-Test The Cost Of No Decision
It's easy to look at the upside or downside of making a decision, but we frequently neglect to do an equivalent analysis of making no decision. This additional analysis may help determine the timing of a decision and the crucial inflection point that turns a wait-and-see situation into a call to action. Without this situational pressure testing, your decision calculus is literally half-baked. - Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, LLC
5. Put Stakeholders First
The most ineffective crisis response begins with some form of "what should we do?" That creates a self-referential and self-protective mindset. Rather, think of stakeholders and ask, "What would reasonable people among those who matter to us consider appropriate for a responsible leader to do?" This gets to smarter decisions sooner. - Helio Fred Garcia, Logos Consulting Group
6. Apply The Rule Of Ten
While you think you are being objective, many decisions are driven by emotions. By applying the rule of ten, you can strive to be more objective. When pondering a decision, ask yourself, where will we be with this decision in 10 days, 10 months and 10 years. Then ask yourself, how you will feel about this decision. Acknowledging and checking in with your emotions is also important. - Melinda Fouts, Ph.D., Success Starts With You
7. Designate An Antagonist
Make it someone's job or additional duty to create strong counter-arguments for every decision you make. Their only function is to overturn the decision, not to come up with a better one. This third-party critique is terrific for seeing problems from different angles, and it's a real boost for the person you select—imagine how much they learn about executive decision-making in that role. - Tom Kolditz, Doerr Institute for New Leaders
8. Know Your Formula
The best strategy for making decisions as a leader or leadership team is to have a formula, road map or matrix through which you make your decisions. Implementing processes and procedures when faced with a decision places guard rails around your company. Put these decision-making formulas into place and follow them. It’ll keep that enemy of productivity—indecision—at bay. - Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience
9. Clarify Goals Regularly And Just Do It
Executives can enhance their decision-making skills by clarifying their priorities and what they want to get accomplished at the beginning of the year, every quarter, every month and every week. Clear goals followed by the clarity of when the goals need to be delivered on paper can make a difference. If anyone has a problem in terms of action then they need to practice the "Just Do It" of Nike. - Lyne Desormeaux, PsyD, MCC, Desormeaux Leadership Consulting
10. Check Your Biases
Decisive decision making is a key leadership characteristic, but sometimes, when time pressures are high and available information is limited, leaders rely too much on their gut as a decision-making shortcut. While leaders need to tune into their intuition, they also need to critically self-reflect and realize that sometimes “acting on your gut” really means being driven by your personal biases. - Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D, Utah Valley University & Human Capital Innovations, LLC
11. Get The Right People Involved
Especially difficult decisions may cause leaders to take a long time to turn thinking into action. Balancing urgency and thoughtfulness is a must. The best leaders know how to include the right stakeholders to ensure that the decision is right. This does not mean consulting with everybody. It means being purposeful about whose perspective will enhance the quality of the decision. - Edyta Pacuk, MarchFifteen Consulting Inc.
12. Identify The "Who" And "Why"
Enhance your decision making by deciding who is involved and why. If your decision affects many people, then a group decision uncovers perspectives that can be voted upon. If your decision requires expertise that you don't have, then a consultative decision can generate new viewpoints. Lastly, there is the autocratic decision, often used in emergencies or when you should have the final say. - Rita Coco, Rita Coco Consulting
13. Forget Perfection
Everyone wants to make the right decision. The truth is, there are many good decisions and some bad ones. There is rarely the right decision. Stop focusing on getting it exactly right. You can always make adjustments later. Focus more on buy-in and execution. Teams and companies that execute decisions well outperform those that don't. Period. - Brad Federman, PerformancePoint LLC
14. Set A Short Deadline
The longer we take to make a decision, the harder it can get, potentially leading to second-guessing ourselves. Set a short deadline to make the decision and be specific about the date and time. Then use the time in between to gather the relevant data to support your decision. This is a practice. The more you do it, the easier and more natural it becomes. - Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
15. Use Your Values And Vision As A Filter
When faced with a difficult decision, always go back to the values and vision of your organization. These values should be a guidepost and filter for every decision you need to make. And realize that you are going to be wrong sometimes, and that’s OK—just learn a lesson from any failure. - Aaron Levy, Raise The Bar
16. Create A Virtual Board Of Directors
Indecision is costly at any time, and especially in a crisis. Time is of the essence, uncertainty is high and ramifications of unintended consequences can be amplified. Virtual decision support technologies enable leaders to tap into their full spectrum of trusted advisers in a structured and collaborative way. Create a virtual board of directors and explore alignment, as well as divergent views. - April Armstrong, AHA Insight