Making decisions is hard. Sometimes it's hard because you don't have all of the information, or don't know whether you have all the information. Sometimes it's hard because the decision you're making will take you past the "point of no return." You can't go back, so you want to be sure you get it just right.
Most of the time, however, they are hard because we make them hard. We do that because most people suffer from a combination of fear and doubt that causes us to second-guess the decisions we make. That's especially true when the decisions affect an entire team or organization.
If you're a leader, however, that's your job. It's literally your job to make decisions that affect your organization and the lives of its stakeholders.
The good news is, most of the time, the decisions you're making aren't "point of no return" type decisions. That isn't to say that you won't be faced with those, but most of the decisions a leader makes are far lower stakes.
These are the day-to-day decisions that leaders have to make relatively quickly or they start to stack up and slow down the entire team. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make better decisions, and make them faster. One of them is what I call the "three question rule."
Here's how it works.
When you're considering whether a decision is the best option for yourself or your team or your business, it can be easy to get lost in all of the possible outcomes and variables. That often causes you to second-guess whether the decision you've made is really the best.
It also slows you down, because instead of moving forward with your decisions, you spend time looking backward at your process. Even worse, often you end up making a lower-quality decision because you're driven by that doubt and fear.
Instead, make the best decision you can with the information you have, and then ask yourself these three questions:
- Does this decision align with our stated values?
- Does this decision advance our stated goals/objectives?
- Does this decision reflect the best interests of the stakeholders?
If the answer to those three questions is yes, then you're done. Move on. If any of the answers are no, you have more work to do, but your real problem is with your decision-making process. The point is that if you've reached a decision for which you can answer yes to those questions, it's time to act. You have too many things to do to spend more time second-guessing good decisions that support those three things.
Sure, sometimes you'll find out later that you could have made a better, cheaper, faster decision. Sometimes it won't be the "right one." For that matter, sometimes there isn't only one decision that could be considered "right."
That will be the case no matter how much effort you put into making a decision. The point is to make the best decision you can, with the information you have, that aligns with what you have said is important to your business.
Your goal as a leader shouldn't be to sit around trying to figure out some existential question about whether you've made the "right" decision. If you do what's right, for your values and your people, and you're accomplishing your stated goals, move on.
By the way, sometimes it doesn't matter. Seriously. Sometimes there isn't a perfect answer or a "right decision." In that case, as long as you can answer yes to those questions, make the decision and move forward with implementing it without looking back.