7 Ways To Improve Your Decision Making

Post Highlights

  • Understanding how to make decisions is essential to team building
  • Leadership is essential to decision making, and is articulated in many different ways
  • 7 strategies to improve decision making for leaders

Over the last few weeks I’ve been thinking about the big decisions I’ve made in my life. Some choices have changed the course of my career and my life. While others, which felt so grave at the moment, have ultimately turned into minor blips on my radar.

When you are deeply invested in the operations of an organization, the challenge becomes that you need be sensitive and realize implications across your team. If you are completely dismissive or unaware of the impact of your actions and decisions, you run the risk of de-motivating your team, and failing to meet organizational goals or objectives. With our decisions and actions, we want to move our organizations forward to collaboratively see our organization achieve our mission and reach our goals.

This philosophy is not new and nothing we haven’t heard before. Yet, it is a reminder that no matter how large or small the decision, clarity while making a decision is essential. This does not mean we make decisions in a robotic fashion, calculated or absent emotions. In fact, the calmness and clarity of a leader to make a decision shows the ability to manage their emotions, and rationalize each decision. It’s a skill that we all strive for, and are constantly learning how to manage our emotions, and make the right decision for our organization. When articulating a position and explaining a decision, it’s not just taking into consideration hard facts, it’s acknowledging and empathizing with the very human element of decision making.

So how do we improve our decision making? Here are a few strategies I have used, based on my experiences and from what I’ve learned from mentors and peers:

Use Data
Using data always helps make an informed decision, and some ways takes the emotion out of a decision. Data allows you to clearly process trends, explain arguments and have a sound discussion with team members.

Process Information
Take some time to think through information, process data, and get a full view of an issue. For everyone, they have a different process to get there. Take the time to learn your individual process to understand and distill information. This will only help you confront an issue with clarity, and to make stronger decisions.

Visualize the Impact
Take a moment to think about the outcomes of the decision, what could possibly happen if I say X, what if I say Y? How will my team react? What’s going to happen to our organization? What are the implications? Is this a philosophical shift? Ask yourself the tough questions to understand the issue in its entirety, and really work to understand what’s the impact of your decision.

Do not let conversation erupt into a debate
If you are making a difficult decision that is emotionally charged, the conversation can quickly launch into a debate. Although this one is largely outside your control, do your best to remain calm and clearly articulate your position. If the conversation starts to get heated, allowing people to express emotion is not necessarily bad, but work hard to get the conversation back to a point in which it is constructive for all parties involved.

Practice reflective listening
Reflective listening is such a critical skill to develop. The ability to keenly listen, process opposing information and articulate a position back is an essential skill. Learn how to listen, practice listening, and really get to the bottom of an issue.

Align towards common goals – make sure you have a shared vision
Without a shared vision, any decision is going to continue to dissolve into the wrong conversation. Make sure that you and your team are aligned towards a shared goal, the same outcomes, and are looking at the right way to get there as a team.

Engage Core Stakeholders
It’s so important that prior to any decision that a leader talk through options and listen to the concerns of stakeholders. Only through this process will decision makers truly understand the issue from a variety of perspectives, and can make a well-informed decision. Good leaders may already know the answer or the perspective an employee will articulate, but taking the time to invest and listen is essential, it’s one of the many ways to build trust, empower employees, and work towards building positive relationships with your team.

The process of how arrive to a decision has large implications for an organization. Decision makers have the opportunity to build trust, show leadership and drive organizations forward by investing in the time to make the proper decision, and empower the team along the way.
What are some tips you can share? How do we make better decisions to move our organizations forward?

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Andrew Krzmarzick

Great post, Pat. I think a lot of leaders might read and say, “check, check, check”…but the one where I don’t believe any of us feel like we have time (and therefore, I think few people do it), is “Visualize the Impact.”

That takes some solid mental work and time – and often it needs to be uninterrupted so you can really consider the potential flow. If done well (read: thoughtfully), I could almost see someone sitting down with a pen and paper to sketch out scenarios as you described.

Even for those who say they do it, my hunch is that it happens on the fly without being too terribly intentional – but when the little decisions add up without much thought to impact, it has huge implications for organizational culture.

Thanks for these great insights – especially that kernel of wisdom.

Pat Fiorenza

Thanks Andy – for visualize the impact, I actually caught onto that from an interview with a football coach. The coach was asking the team to close their eyes and visualize how the game was going to unfold. I think we can do that more often in the professional world as well. Obviously lots of variables you cannot control, but visualizing different outcomes or scenarios can help you adapt – and also good sign you are invested.

Thanks for the comment!