Being decisive is often seen as an admirable trait in the workplace. It shows a sense of assurance and clarity of vision, but sometimes we can really struggle to commit to an option when faced with an array of choices. Or conversely, we make snap decisions based on gut feel and our certainty of a situation that later turns out to be wrong.
I am always impressed by people who make efficient and effective decisions – and know what their guiding principles are for major decisions in their life or at work. One school principal recently said it’s easy to make decisions at her school, because every decision should be based around what is best for the students.
Why is it so difficult to make decisions?
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It’s not difficult to decide what to have for lunch; it isn’t difficult to decide the method of transport to use to commute to the office. These are decisions of fairly insignificant consequence and are therefore a lot easier to make.
It becomes much more difficult when the consequences are larger, and the hardest decisions of all are those that are coloured by emotion.
If you have ever found yourself considering such things as your reputation, or how your decision will adversely affect those around you then you are familiar with the emotional aspect of decision-making. Or if the decision has a financial consequence – it can be difficult to commit.
We are fundamentally risk-averse creatures – dangers always seem larger than they are, and especially in times of uncertainty we will seek the comfort in ‘safe’ options.
It is often said that the first 30 seconds of a job interview are the most important in determining success. This is clearly based on emotion and first impression rather than an objective look at your qualifications and employment history. Workplaces across the country are rightly moving to more objective measures, but ‘gut feel’ still tends to make the decision when the number of candidates is reduced to two or three.
We live in the information age where the amount of available information and data far exceeds the time we have to digest it. As much as we all strive to be objective and information-based decision-makers there will always be some facts or detail that we are not aware of. Trying to absorb every morsel to churn out a ‘correct’ decision on the other side is a taxing exercise. It is much more effective to spend time on selecting key pieces of information on which to make decisions.
The power of the anecdote
Another inherent human trait is the attraction to skilled storytelling. We will often have our opinion swayed more by a well-told anecdote than we are by reams of data. It is important to be aware of anecdote when making decisions, no matter how emotive the story is you have to assess whether it is the exception or the rule.
Testing the decision
The image of the decisive and forthright business executive is something that many aspire to, but how many decisions are actually tested? The big decisions that impact the direction of the business certainly are – but what about all those people decisions that are made throughout the day?
We have a remarkable ability to view the world in a way that validates our actions – your decision to override a team member’s suggestion may seem like a good idea because it would have cost resources, but what did it do to that team member’s enthusiasm and morale?
DECIDE KEY POINTS
Define Problems – Work out exactly what needs to be decided or resolved
Explore Options – Is there more than one way to solve this problem
Consider Outcomes – think of how each of the options might play out and what would result
Isolate Best Options – pick the best one
Do It – Go for it!
Evaluate – how did it go? Were your predictions correct?
Eve Ash has created two hilarious new comedy films: Making Decisions, Planning and Organizing that can be used for to kick off a training session on topics like planning, deciding and getting organised. Eve has produced a wide range of video and book resources (www.7d-tv.com) on building confidence and interpersonal skills. Eve’s two books can Rewrite Your Life! and Rewrite Your Relationships! and can be helpful when negative thoughts drag you down.