As you improve your decision making skills your leadership ability will also improve. Leaders must make difficult decisions in any environment.
No matter what career or industry you’re in, if you’re the leader, it will fall to you to make the tough choices. And trust us, there will always be tough choices to make—it’s just part of life!
It’s difficult to prepare to make these difficult choices; after all, there’s no way to “practice” in our everyday lives, because it’s fairly rare for us to be backed into a corner with two tough options to consider. All you can do is train your mind to go through the decision-making process efficiently so that you will be ready when the time comes.
Here are some ways you can train your mind and improve your decision making skills to prepare yourself for those tough choices you’re inevitably going to face:
Start With the Facts
When you’ve got a difficult decision to make—or, heck, even an easy one—it’s important to start off by gathering as much information as you can. The more information you have, the easier it will be to make as close to an “informed” decision as possible.
Learn all the facts of the matter, both how the situation came to be, what factors contributed to it ending up where it is now, and anything else that might give you all the important factual data that you need to know.
Once you can build a concrete backstory or timeline, all the details of what has happened until now, it’s time to start looking toward the future—specifically, potential outcomes based on past outcomes. Collect as much data as you can about past decisions—made by you or other people—and how they turned out. The more information you have about potential outcomes, the more you will be able to make a decision based on real, concrete data.
Improve Your Decision Making Skills By Listening To Your Gut
While the first step is to always get all the facts you can, you need to understand that your head isn’t the only thing that will be coming into play in this decision. You’ve also got to get your gut—also known as your “instincts”—involved.
An instinctive decision isn’t something you pull out of thin air; it’s a decision made on facts and information your brain sorts on a subconscious or unconscious level, without a conscious understanding of how you reached that decision. Simply put, sometimes your gut can outthink your brain because it reaches decisions and conclusions faster than your brain or in a way your brain doesn’t quite understand.
That’s not to say that gut decisions are always right. However, if you check in with your gut and listen to what your instincts are telling you—based off all the information you’ve gathered—you’ll find that it becomes clearer which direction you’re leaning in. You’ll start to get a feel for the option you want to take, which makes it easier for you to break down and logically analyze why that is your reaction.
Step Back and Get Distance
When you’ve got to make a difficult decision, it can often be impossible to look beyond the immediate, the specific factors of your situation that are making it tough to see a clear way through. Take a macro approach or a bird’s eye view. If you are deep in the weeds there is a problem.
That’s when it’s time to step back, to remove yourself from the problem or situation. This can be the hardest thing in the world, especially when you’re neck deep in whatever troubles are making life tough. But if you can pull yourself out of the situation and get a more distant view of the problem, you may find that it’s easier to start thinking creatively and finding another way to do things.
Do something—anything—that pulls you out of your situation. Literally go to the rooftop of your building and look down on the world around you, to try and get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on. Or, take a short drive, and get out of town, into the wilderness, a forest, or a mountain—anywhere that’s not right in the middle of whatever’s troubling you. Step back from the situation, and try coming at it from a new, more creative angle.
Sometimes, removing yourself from the situation is enough to give you a new perspective. You’ll find that getting out of your surroundings is often enough to get you out of your head and your troubles, helping you to tackle the problem in a new way.
Weigh Up the Pros and Cons
Literally, make it a point to see which negative outcomes would be the worst, and which you could bring yourself to live with.
Most of us tend to focus on the pros, the outcomes we want and are striving for. They should always be an important consideration to take into account. Think about which outcome is most desirable, and that could give you an idea which path to take when it comes time to make that decision.
However, in a difficult situation, it may seem like there are no positive outcomes, only two or more negative outcomes. That’s when it’s vital for you to weigh each of those negative outcomes to see which one you can “live with” and which would be absolutely untenable.
Let’s work with a hypothetical example, say a company that is gearing up to launch a brand new product. However, just before launch day, they discover that their product is defective or has some serious flaw. They have two choices: cancel the launch or launch a defective product.
If they cancel the launch, they will be losing a good deal of money and may fail to capitalize on an important opportunity. However, if they proceed with the launch, they will put a defective or flawed product in the hands of their customers, which could not only tarnish the brand’s reputation, but could end up potentially harming customers.
Two tough choices, but you can see which negative outcome has more weight! Thus, it becomes an easier decision to make.
Your decisions and the process you use to arrive at them will define who you are as a leader and ultimately how successful you will become. Do not shy away from making critical decisions, but rather utilize a systematic and well thought out process to arrive at them. In doing so, you will be able to survive the scrutiny your decisions will receive after the fact.