How Do You Make Decisions?

Do you find it difficult to make important business decisions? Or perhaps you find yourself putting off making an important decision? We make decisions every day. From what to wear or what to eat for breakfast, to who to hire or what to achieve next. Decisions can be made both consciously and unconsciously and can vary significantly depending on the situation. But when we actively make decisions, it’s important to consider the impact our choice will make. This blog is about choosing methods that help us make informed decisions, which can take us towards more of the results we want and move us away from situations that no longer serve our purpose. So, what does a good decision really look like? And how can we make sure we’re making a decision that delivers the results we want?

Perspective And Timing Are Crucial

As a business leader, you may find yourself having to wrestle with big decisions. Decisions like re-structuring teams, recruiting for a brand new role or dismissing a member of the team can be tough, and sometimes the instinct is to get them over with quickly. But when I work with people in these situations, I find I need to provide reassurance that, whilst momentum and action are important, so are periods of pause.

This is particularly important when there are emotions attached to the decision being made. The person making the difficult decision may want to move swiftly to action because they have now finished their analysis phase, and need to make things happen. However, the person on the receiving end may need a little time to allow the news to ‘land’ before they are able to respond. It’s important for everyone to allow clarity to emerge – and that can only happen with time.

Different Styles, Used Well, Are Helpful

No two people are the same. Fact! We each have our own unique perspectives which start forming when we’re in the womb, and this means that no two people experience anything the same way. So, when working with leaders and teams, we find the teams that are most effective are the ones who make good use of the different perspectives available to them. This includes understanding the strengths and limitations of the team and knowing when to engage external support. For example, if there is be a gap in knowledge, skills or awareness, an external specialist may be able to fill that space and support better decision making.

There are many problem solving and team decision making models, and we help teams to find processes and models that work well for their circumstances. However, we find a few ruling principles to be fundamental to effective decision making, regardless of the process used to include:

  • Respecting the need to stay focused on the purpose of the decision from all the team members.
  • Creating a shared understanding continuously and particularly where there are evolving situations.
  • Exercising empathy for the people affected by the decision without judgement.
  • Ownership of the decision by the nominated decision makers

One of my favourite methods for helping teams appreciate different perspectives (and one of the first I came across early in my career), is Edward De Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’. I absolutely love this model, as it simply demonstrates differing perspectives, and in doing so encourages people to assess their problem in ways outside of their own usual thinking. You can find out more about it here.

Uncertainty Disables Effectiveness

The strongest decision makers understand that 100% certainty of an outcome to a decision is not possible. So instead they find a way of becoming clear enough about the options available, by exploring as much as is necessary for those circumstances, to become comfortable enough to move forward.

Our philosophy is if no plan ‘survives contact with the enemy’ then no decision can ‘create definitive results’. Perfect prediction is the enemy of actionable results and to be avoided. That doesn’t mean we should continue in the absence of key information, or exclude the ‘what ifs’. It’s more that we are clear about what is needed in order to be confident about the decision we make, and then to make it without the unnecessary confusion caused by over analysis and delays.

Lack Of Empathy And Communication Erodes Support For Decisions

Reaching a decision is important. And for the decision maker, it’s often a freeing experience – particularly after a period of wrestling with conscience, logic and emotion. But a decision communicated without empathy to those affected, regardless of how clear the rationale, will at best dilute commitment and engagement, and at worst could create resistance and distraction at a time when unity is key.

This is one of the things we find is often overlooked. Let’s take a tough situation as an example:

A manager needs to make 2 employees in their department redundant. Employee A is a 42-year-old with a newborn at home and a high mortgage to pay. Employee B is a 20-year-old living with parents. The rationale for the business means the decision to make both redundant is fair and logical. But let’s look at their personal challenges. They are so different, even at this surface level, that it’s impossible to treat them the same. A consistent process is important for fairness, and the manager will need the same outcome from each meeting. But the way they discuss the news will be different for each employee, based on their life stages, personalities and circumstances.

I am often asked ‘why someone is being so difficult?’ when on the receiving end of a seemingly fair decision that has been consistently managed. In many cases, it’s a lack of awareness and/or understanding that’s causing the problem. So clarity is another important element to get right. When delivering information, decision-makers need to make sure that the receiver will understand the decision, by navigating the dialogue through clear expectations and discussions. Clarity and transparency ensure your conscience remains intact, so even the most difficult news can be accepted and transitions can be smooth.

Decisions Are All About Choice

Overall, it’s about making the best decision you can, with the information available at that time, having taken into account perspectives outside of your own and with other people in mind. Our measure of a good decision is not so much about whether it feels good (although we love that too) but more about reaching a clear way forward and communicating it with good conscience.

At Organic P&O Solutions, we work with business leaders and teams who need to make decisions about their people, at any stage of their growth. We then help bridge the gaps between education, performance and talent, to help you make the next right move and the next, so people and organisations can achieve their goals. To find out more about how we might be able to help you, get in touch!

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