How To Make Decisions
Updated: Sep 6
An essential element of leadership lies in the responsibility to make decisions. We all make decisions continually throughout the day. By some estimates, an adult makes about 35,000 conscious decisions every day.
Toast or fruit?
Slacks or jeans?
Quit or stay? Image by Jens Lelie
But the decisions of leaders are often a bit more weighty.
They can have both short and long-term consequences.
They have both rational and emotional components.
And they impact their constituents both directly and indirectly:
Give bonuses or hire more staff?
Stay with a loyal vendor or change to one offering a discount?
Keep safely in your niche or take a leap of faith and grow your business?
The pressure on leaders to make decisions is exacerbated by the fact that they are made while stakeholders watch and wait in anticipation. Inevitably, someone will be unhappy with the result and quick to criticize what they perceive to be the wrong choice.
It is a heavy responsibility.
One element that makes decision making so stressful is the element of uncertainty that is involved. It can be difficult to impossible to predict outcomes when multiple variables are at play.
Uncertainty is very uncomfortable and we will naturally do what we can to avoid it.
This can lead to endless data gathering and continual analysis from every possible angle as we search for the perfect decision. These efforts, however, rarely yield productive results and squander valuable time and resources.
The result is analysis paralysis.
The following tips, adapted from Larina Kase’s book, The Confident Leader, can help you in the decision-making process:
Be aware of the emotions that arise in the face of stressful decisions. With practice, you can learn to regulate your nervous system’s response and engage your thinking brain to help you sort through the facts.
Be mindful of your efforts to find certainty. This can prevent you from making a good decision because you are looking for a false sense of security. This begins with accepting the fact that the outcome is unknown.
Limit your choices. Trying to consider every possible scenario can lead to overwhelm and result in making no decision. Experts recommend choosing from no more than 5 possibilities.
Become an expert and trust your gut. The more knowledgeable you are about a subject the more trustworthy your intuition will be.
When gathering information to inform your decision, determine what data is crucial and when to stop the information-gathering process.
We’ll add one more tip to Kase’s advice:
Check your values. While few decisions are clearly “right” or “wrong”, those that align with your company values will point you in the best direction.
Want some guidance in making decisions for your company? G2 Solutions can help. Reach out for a free consultation.