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Deciding with Confidence

    Managers make countless decisions every day. If you were to tally up the hours spent on decision-making in a week, you would probably find it adds up to a full day’s worth of work! 

    Not all decisions are created equal, though. Some are as routine as choosing whether to respond to yet another email and then there are those high-stakes moments, like figuring out how to tackle a thorny performance issue. Here’s the thing: these decisions hold the key to your team’s success and the prosperity of your business. No pressure, right? Even for seasoned managers, the prospect of deciding can sometimes feel downright daunting.

    Now, we’ve all had our fair share of decision-making slip-ups. Hindsight is 20/20, and if we take a little trip down memory lane, we can probably spot instances where one of the following culprits led to a less-than-ideal outcome.

    Common Reasons for Poor Decisions

    • Lack of Information or inaccurate info: It’s the classic “if I had known that, I wouldn’t have done this” scenario. Incomplete data can trip us up.
    • Bias: We’re only human, and our feelings and bias can lead us astray. Sometimes, we decide based on emotions rather than objectivity. For example, a manager may favor a team member or have a preconceived notion about a particular project, which can cloud their judgment.
    • Time Pressure: We’re always racing against the clock. Quick decisions under pressure can often backfire.
    • Lack of Communication: Not listening to your team or failing to provide clear guidance can lead to decisions that don’t benefit your crew or your organization.

    While it might seem like some people are born decision-making wizards, the truth is, that it’s a learned skill. With consistent practice and adopting a handful of indispensable strategies, you can sharpen your decision-making abilities and boost your self-assurance.

    A Guide to Better Decisions

    Now, let’s look at a guide for decision-making. While there’s a series of steps to follow, it’s important to remember that not every decision requires a deep dive of thought and extensive research.  Ultimately, the time invested should align with the criticality and its potential impact on your business.

    For instance, you wouldn’t typically involve your team or develop a spreadsheet to approve an employee’s vacation request.  On the other hand, when considering the launch of a brand-new product line, you roll up your sleeves and take a deep dive through these decision-making steps.

    Let’s make these steps come alive with a real-life scenario.

    Eleven Steps to Great Decisions

    1. Identify the problem or decision:  Start with the basics – understanding the problem or issue and determining the outcome you aim to achieve.

    2. Gather Information:  Knowledge is power. The next step involves arming yourself with all the necessary information, ensuring you don’t resort to guesswork. How much data you need depends on the gravity of the decision. In the case of expanding a product line, you would dig deep. However, more isn’t always better. Data overload can work in reverse, and you can end up with analysis paralysis. Focus on collecting accurate, reliable, and timely data relative to the specific decision at hand.

    3. Check your biases:  Here’s where things get personal. Managers need to acknowledge their own biases and work to overcome them. This means staying open to different perspectives and keeping emotions out of the driver’s seat.

    As difficult as it may be, none of the above personal biases or emotions should play a role in making the decision.

    4. Review all Options:  Decision-making involves exploring all available options and assessing their potential outcomes.  For some decisions, brainstorming with your team works well.

    While Natasha’s vacation request does not warrant a team brainstorming session, it’s worth considering alternatives. Could she opt for a different week, part-time off, remote work, or flexible hours? Talk these over with her before making a call.

    5. Consider the impact of your decision:  Before you stamp your decision in stone, consider the potential impact. This involves weighing short-term and long-term consequences, potential risks, and rewards.

     If you give the green light for Natasha’s vacation, will it jeopardize service quality or result in loss of business? Will there be a burden on other employees? What about Natsha’s engagement or well-being? 

    6. Seek Advice:  A manager role can feel lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Seek wisdom from experienced peers, mentors, or industry experts to gain valuable insights into the challenges you face. Your team members are also an invaluable resource, with their intimate knowledge of daily operations and potential innovative solutions. 

    When unsure about a tough decision, like denying Natasha’s request, discussing it with a co-worker can bring clarity.

    7. Use Data and Analytics:  When data is available, why rely on guesswork?  For instance, if you’re contemplating launching a new product, let data help you gauge market demand and pinpoint the most profitable pricing strategy. 

    For the vacation request, if you have access to data for traffic patterns, peak periods, and scheduling tools, you might use these to determine the impact.

    8. Use Frameworks:  When it’s crunch time for big decisions, structured frameworks like SWOTS (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) come to the rescue. These help you make objective, fact-based choices, steering clear of emotional biases. Techniques like brainstorming and mind mapping can also inject creativity into the process.

    9. Take action: When you’ve explored the above steps, it’s time to make the call. Best not to let the grass grow under your feet, especially when you have a tough decision. The more you procrastinate, the worse it will be.

    Many managers are hesitant to make tough decisions due to the fear of making mistakes but remember, it’s all part of the learning process.  Act quickly and decisively – communicate your decision, devise an action plan, put it into motion, and monitor progress to ensure you achieve the desired results.

    10. Don’t be afraid to change your mind: Confidence in your decisions is crucial, but so is the ability to pivot when new information or insights emerge. Admit when you’ve made a wrong call and adjust your actions accordingly. Adaptability is a must in any business environment.

    After initially declining Natasha’s vacation request and a night of tossing and turning, you realize that emotions and biases clouded your judgment. Anger over her lateness took center stage, and you overlooked the importance of her time off for puppy training.

    11. Take Time to Reflect: Reflecting on past decisions is your secret weapon for growth. Learn from your missteps to improve your decision-making skills and avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Dive deep into your failures, figure out what went wrong, and chart a course for better decision-making. Experience is the best teacher for honing your skills.

    Wrap Up

    Over time, these steps will become second nature, and you will effortlessly run through this mental checklist, guiding you toward confident and informed decision-making. For easy reference, you can find a list of the 11 steps on our resource page. Happy deciding!

    Ponder Points

    What is one recent decision I’ve made as a manager, and which steps from the guide did I follow, or overlook, in that process?

    Have I identified and acknowledged any personal biases or emotions that may have influenced my past decisions? How can I work on minimizing their impact in the future?

    Looking at the 11 steps, which one do I find the most challenging to implement, and what can I do to overcome that challenge?

    Do you have any tips for effective decision-making? Please share your thought in the comments, and share the post with co-workers and friends!

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