It’s said that we make 35,000 decisions each day – from what to eat for breakfast to the quickest route to work. For business leaders, decisions may also include things like strategic directional decisions or terminating an employee.
Decision-making is an art. While some are inconsequential, others have massive implications – on us, our business or on other. This can make the process time-consuming and mentally tolling.
Strong decision-makers are able to think critically about the situation at hand, strategically decide the best course of action and execute. Therein lays the art.
Luckily for those of us who haven’t mastered the art of decision-making, it’s a skill that can be practiced, developed and honed. Here are six tips to optimize the decision-making process.
1. The Balance of Perspective
When it’s time to make a tough decision, gathering multiple perspectives is important. Opposing opinions help show both sides of the coin. Getting a grasp of multiple positions on the same issue creates a middle ground upon which to build a final decision.
But there’s a delicate balance between too little and too much outside perspective. The latter poses the risk of over-cluttering our thought process and creating greater confusion. Seek the opinions of a select, trusted select few but avoid opinion over-saturation.
2. Learn to See the Forest for the Trees
It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of a decision but it’s imperative to avoid looking at it through a limited lens. When faced with a tough choice, back up and look at the bigger picture. Be mindful of the full the decision’s full context and implement the multiple perspectives you’ve sought to avoid emphasizing one aspect and neglecting others.
3. Easier Isn’t Always Better
The right decision won’t always be the easy one. In fact, the toughest decisions often yield the best results. Our comfort zone can be a dangerous place. Being too comfortable can hinder positive change and, in an ever-evolving business world, this can be a huge detriment.
Developing an eye for risk – as well as an ability to calculate risk/reward – will ease tough decisions. Evaluate the long-term outcome rather than just the short-term – often times the immediate fallout of a hard decision will be challenging but will result in a positive outcome in the long run.
Big decisions require calculated thinking. Don’t be afraid to play devil’s advocate. Evaluate the factors that would be indicative that the wrong decision had been made in order to work in reverse and avoid those pitfalls.
4. Trust Your Gut
“Go with your gut instinct.” It’s one of the most commonly doled pieces of business advice for a reason: it’s usually right.
Gut instinct is a catalogue of subconscious experiences and feelings that we have built throughout our life. When we trust our gut instinct to make a decision, what we’re really trusting is a wealth of our own wisdom derived from a plethora of different situations and scenarios that our conscious mind doesn’t have instant access to.
5. Think As Though You’re Giving Advice to Somebody Else
It’s a lot easier to give advice than to heed it. That’s because we are more easily able to remove emotion and look at situations objectively when we’re not personally tied to them, in turn making it easier to advise on the best possible course of action. For the same reason, it’s never as simple to evaluate our own personal situations.
When it comes time to make a decision, try to evaluate it as if it’s somebody else’s choice to make and think about how you would advise them. While it’s not always an easy perspective to take on, adding an element of impartiality can be a strong guide towards the right decision.
6. Remove Bias from Your Decision
This is a lot easier said than done, but it’s an important factor in making the right decision for the right reason. A well-made decision cannot be based in any way on ego, ideology, experience or fear. It’s also imperative to avoid seeking data that justifies a decision.
Gaining a broad perspective will help make – and defend – tough decisions. The strongest decision-makers are introspective, examining and acknowledging their own preconceptions and biases. This practice helps them avoid “confirmation bias” because they are receptive to information that does not support their preconceptions rather than focusing solely on information that does.
Decision-making is hard work. They are often made amidst uncertainty, under a time crunch and against strong external pressure with many factors to consider and a lack of relevant data. But decision-making is a skill that can be honed and perfected with practice and the right tools.