Are you better known for making good decisions or to “agonize” over them? What role does confidence and procrastination play in your decision making life?
Making good decisions_ (Audio)
Are you known to be a decision maker? Do you usually make good decisions? What does that take? Do you sometimes “get them wrong”? Do you sometimes struggle to make decisions? Do you worry about getting them wrong? Are there some decisions you find harder to make than others? What’s the difference?
Decision making can be regarded as the mental (cognitive) processes resulting in the selection of a course of action among several alternative scenarios; also defined as a position or opinion or judgment reached after consideration.
We make all sorts of decisions all the time, most of which we don’t really notice. Are you consciously aware of deciding to change lanes in the traffic, or to look at your watch to know the time, or which sandwich you choose at lunch time? Do we worry much whether we get those wrong?
So why is there sometimes so much “angst” attached to making “bigger decisions”? You know, ones where we know that the outcome can have a big impact? Isn’t it amazing how sometimes the size or impact of a decision can start a rush of “what if” fears in our left brain, which can also lead to Procrastination
Not making decisions
I thought Theodore Roosevelt captured it beautifully when he said: In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
I’m a Libra star sign, and we are not known to be the world’s best decision makers, right? We can dilly-dally around a decision looking at one perspective and another, and another and then “on the other hand”… and sometimes find it all too hard and then rather not make a decision at all – that way we at least don’t get it wrong. Can some of you relate to that?
However, I have learned that not making a decision is often far worse than making a “bad decision”. Do you find when we don’t make a decision that we can be prone also to “beating ourselves up” about not deciding? However at least you can correct or adjust a “bad” or “wrong” decision. Like I sometimes say: “you can’t direct a stationary vehicle – it has to be moving before you can direct it”.
So what’s a bad decision? Clearly it is considered “bad” if it didn’t result in the expected outcomes. But of course we didn’t know that at the time of making the decision, did we? It is only in hindsight that we can pass judgement. This to me often gets to the crux of the issue we are discussing here.
What do we need to make good decisions?
If there was something fundamental I have learned from all my coaching and mentoring as well as from my own personal experiences, it is that our belief in ourselves drives most of our attitude, our behaviours and our outcomes. As Henry Ford so rightly said: “if you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re dead right”.
To me this underlies a lot of the question of why some do and some don’t believe they can make good decisions.
Going back to “the fear of getting it wrong”, it is in that space ahead of a decision that this plays out, particularly when it comes to “big or important” decisions, right? Do I have all the facts? Am I making the right choices? What if i get it wrong? This is so typical of the perfectionist’s behaviour, where rather than getting it wrong, it is “safer” to either not have a go at all or delay the decision until we “have all the facts” or other similarly procrastinating behaviours. This where self doubt also comes to the fore, doesn’t it?
Yet others are known to look at the facts, assess the situation and “bang” – there’s the decision. What’s the difference? Is it confidence? Is it “wiring”? Is it practice and experience? How do we overcome this “paralysis”?
In my blog Confidence, Certainty and Doubt I suggest that irrespective of our confidence about a certain situation, that as a professional, we owe it to ourselves to act with certainty, and that our certainty needs to firstly be greater than our own doubt and certainly come across as greater than the doubt of whom we are communicating with. A little like “fake it till you make it”, right?
Is that it? Of course not. But it is certainly an important component.
Making good decisions
There are so many references to follow and there has been so much written about the techniques and tools etc about making good decisions elsewhere that I won’t go into that in any great detail here.
But what I have learned is that one of the most important aspects of making good decisions is just to make them – just to get on with it, and then fine-tune and adjust them as we go along.
Fundamentally it is about getting all the facts and insights together so that we can make an “educated” decision. Doing our homework. Reading the trends. Seeking opinions. Finding anecdotes. Checking resources. Recognizing and assessing dependencies. Knowing who has the power and who has the need. Interpreting the ramifications.
In my blog Planning in scenarios I spoke about establishing the “best case” and also the “worst case” scenarios and then figuring out the most likely of outcomes, which we can then interpret and assess.
At best, all of these help us to “paint a picture”, but at the end of the day it’s all still a bit speculative because the future we are trying to interpret or predict hasn’t occurred yet, right?
A great example for me is the purchase or sale of a share. We can get all the right information and advice. We can research and analyse. All the “facts” can point towards the “right choice”. Yet it is still “a bit of a gamble”, isn’t it? And then the outcome might have nothing at all to do with the actual profitability of the company, but be influenced by what a bunch of politicians in Europe agree (or disagree) on.
I have also learned that if we look at this one transaction in isolation, we will potentially be more worried about “getting it wrong” than if we just keep pursuing what we feel is right and that over a period of time and experiences we will be more likely to get more transactions (and decisions) right than wrong. Whilst this is “only” a belief, I think we can get much more encouragement from that than applying too much emphasis on just one singular decision. It’s about Trusting oneself, isn’t it?
At that point I have learned to rely on my gut feeling. I like to listen to my intuition.
I’d like to repeat a story I’ve told about an associate coach who saw and picked up a coin lying on the ground on his way to a coaching session, and wondered about the significance of having found that coin. In his session, his client was agonizing over a decision how to choose between a new job opportunity in England versus another at home in Australia. After much deliberation the coach saw no other way out than with a knowing smile to suggest flipping the coin he held in his pocket, which his client agreed to. The result was the job in England. When he “tested” how his client felt about the decision that had been reached in this way, she said she felt she was disappointed. Now the true feelings emerged and the right decision to take the “local” option prevailed. Gut feeling. In my blog Goosebumps I stressed how important it is to “listen to what your body is telling you”.
In my leadership grooming and training around the topic of delegation, I speak about how whilst we delegate the responsibility, we still retain accountability and that an important factor is the authority we grant the other person to make independent decisions before having to come back to us to seek approval –that is, how much “rope we give them”. Doesn’t “knowing how much authority” we have sometimes come into adding doubt into making good business decisions? To me this is another important example of “clarity at work” in good leadership.
So what does this all mean to you? If you are “a good decision maker”, probably not a lot.
However, if this strikes a chord with you, what have we learned from it? What might you do differently on Monday?
With the awareness this has created, could you perhaps choose to have a go at “behaving more decisively” in the coming week and seeing how you can “adjust and fine-tune the moving vehicle” rather than leaving it stationary? Perhaps to listen more to your gut feeling over your “left brain mind chatter”?
Perhaps you can become more aware of how you make your decisions and look at how you can improve the process? Perhaps it is simply a matter of “deciding to be more decisive”?
Perhaps you worry less about making a “good” decision and concentrate more about “just making decisions”?
Perhaps you will conclude, like I did a long time ago now, that “just doing it” generates confidence, which in turn creates better outcomes, and thereby invokes all sorts of providence as I wrote in The blue Honda?
What if you did and what if it could?