How to Make Great Decisions (Most of the Time)
Everyday life is filled with decisions: what to eat, what to wear, what to buy. It's been suggested by the scientific community that people make around 35,000 decisions every day. Most people manage this daily litany without even thinking about it. But big decisions can consume people. I have seen many poor souls paralyzed for months in their decision-making when the stakes are high.
In business a great decision can mean success for everyone and can even change the world. Gazelles' Growth Guru, Verne Harnish illustrates this 18 times in his enlightening new book The Greatest Business Decisions of All Time. Not all of us will have to break new societal ground by deciding whether or not to rehire a Steve Jobs, or to double workers' wages like Henry Ford as illustrated in the book. But as Harnish eloquently states, "Success equals the sum total of all the decisions one makes."
The approach to making great decisions when faced with a major conundrum is somewhat counter-intuitive; otherwise everyone would be able to decide their way to great leadership and success. Here are three key tips for increasing your odds of being a great decider.
1. Assess the Impact of What to Whom
It may seem obvious to determine who is affected by your decision, but often people only examine how a decision will impact their own life and satisfaction without further consideration for others. (Teenagers are notorious for this approach.) Make a list of all the stakeholders involved and delve deeply into the pros and cons for each of them based upon the decision you make. You may want to ask them personally before you act. They'll appreciate your inquiry and may even offer useful advice and perspective. The simple listing of good and bad results may even highlight an obvious decision in record time.
2. Go Live the Dark Side
While greed may drive action on many decisions, fear will stop a person in their tracks. It's easy to daydream about winning, but the best way to overcome the fear of making a bad decision is to embrace the negative repercussions. Take some time away from your work and live the worst possible outcome in your mind. You can either daydream about it over lunch or discuss it with a friend over a beer. Either way, revel in it. Feel the emotion and the impact. If you can handle the worst of circumstances from the wrong choice then you have successfully mitigated the risk and you are ready to freely accept the results of your decision, good or bad.
3. Wait Until Just Before the Point of No Return
Often people rush to make a big decision before all the data is in. The bigger the decision, the more forces are at work that may change the circumstances. I'm not a patient person, but I have learned over time to manage my impatience when big decisions are at play. Some of my biggest failures have come from acting before all of the information was available. I have since learned to defer big decisions until the last possible moment. This often provides two benefits: first, in most cases the circumstances have a way of resolving many of the issues and the decision becomes obvious; second, I tend to look smarter for waiting and correctly making what actually becomes an easy decision.
No one makes perfect decisions every time. But with proper communication, consideration, and planning, you can reduce your odds of bad decisions and at the very least reduce the negative impact.
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