We make decisions every day – in both our personal and working lives. They can be as simple as what time a meeting should start, or as complex as the best strategy to adopt for a business.
Michelle Gibbings is a change and leadership expert and the founder of Change Meridian. She says regardless of the decision’s complexity, making a bad decision can have negative consequences. To get things done – and done well – you need to make good decisions. So if you want to step up and be more influential, it’s time to master the art of decision making.
Know your bias
Bias pervades decision making. This is because most people don’t make decisions on facts alone. The brain discards information that doesn’t fit with its world view and it takes shortcuts when it makes decisions. Consequently, you can be blind to the obvious and closed to other people’s opinions. Be conscious about the decision you are making and alert to influencing factors and how you are processing information.
Challenge your mindset
Examine the mindset you are applying to your work and relationships. Letting assumptions drive your thought processes and, ultimately, behaviour, can negatively impact your decision making and interactions with colleagues and stakeholders. Instead be curious and invite different opinions as “out of the box” thinking often comes from unexpected quarters.
Don’t silence the dissenters
People are easily swayed by the opinion of others. Be alert to when a group or team is ignoring the person who is raising the dissenting idea. It may be this person who helps ensure the group doesn’t fall into the trap of “groupthink”.
Talk to people at all levels of the organisation. Hierarchy can interfere with the information you receive as it can be filtered and sanitised before it hits your desk by people who are trying to paint a situation in the most favourable light. Talking with people across and up and down the organisation ensures you know what is happening, and are therefore better able to make a good decision.
Be deliberate about what decision you are making. Identify who needs to be involved and what decision-making process you are using. It’s easy to get distracted, so be clear on what you need to do to get the decision made. Multitasking and good decision making are not a successful combination, you lose concentration and productivity as you switch between tasks.
Know your options
Decision making is essentially making a choice to do one thing, rather than another. It helps if you are clear on the options that exist and the likely consequences or outcomes of those options. Often choosing to do one thing, prevents you from doing something else. Understanding the trade-offs mean you are making the decision with your eyes wide open.
Making a decision can be hard work. Some decisions are easy as the best path forward is quickly identified. Other decisions are more complex and the solution is not easy to find. Be comfortable with the fact that sometimes you need to make a decision with incomplete data. The world is complex and the solution to a problem may not be straightforward. In these situations, maintain your focus and determination to make the best possible decision based on what you know at the time, says the author of Step Up: How to Build your Influence at Work.
Get some sleep
When your brain is tired it eagerly takes the path of least resistance and this is where it gets dangerous. Taking the path of least resistance means you will let expectations and assumptions drive how you think and act.
Make the decision
No decision is a decision in itself. Procrastinating will not make the decision process any easier. Be clear on when the decision needs to be made and put in place the process or framework to make it happen.
Reflect on it
Not all the decisions you make will be good or bad. Take the time to reflect on important decisions. What happened? Did it turn out as you expected? If not, why not? What could you do differently next time?