What’s the most important part of decision-making?

Author Brian Tracy says, “Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women.  Almost any decision is better than no decision at all.”

Putting off key decisions is like burying your head under the sheets so that the bogey man in the closet doesn’t get you.

Here are 3 mistakes that are unnecessarily stopping managers and leaders from making the very decisions that must be made, and fast.

Mistake #1: You tell yourself you need more time

There’s a decision sitting right in front of you, but rather than decide, you tell yourself you’ll make the decision later.  Then you settle into doing something else altogether.

Needing more time is an automatic strategy for some people who can’t make up their minds.  It’s as if time has a magical power in and of itself.  Somehow, after a certain number of hours or days, the time will be right for this decision. In the meantime, you don’t have to do any analysis, thinking, or consulting at all.

If this sounds like you, ask yourself, how will time passing bring this decision closer to me?  (It won’t.)  Can I just make the decision right now?  If not, what has to happen above and beyond the passage of time in order for this decision to be made?

Mistake #2: You’re waiting until you have all the information

The decision you need to make has several aspects which require further analysis.  So you analyse.  And analyse.  And analyse.  You’re 80% sure it’s the right decision, but you keep analysing anyhow.

There are no 100% guarantees when making decisions.  The reality is that many of your decisions will not turn out as you expected.  Some will actually turn out better, some will quietly fizzle down to nothing, and some will be outright wrong.  But the only way to really know if your decision is right is to implement it.

If this sounds like you, you probably think you’re doing the “right thing” by researching until you’re sure.  What you’re really doing is meeting your own need for safety and security, not using wise decision-making strategies.  You’ll never have ALL the information.  But there comes a point when it’s reasonable to say that you have ENOUGH.

Mistake #3: You’re thinking about how you’ll feel

Making decisions usually then means taking some sort of action.  Actions that will have an impact on you and on other people.  So you start to think about how you’ll feel if you make that decision.  You start thinking about the hard actions, the ones that will make you squirm.

If you start focusing on your feelings rather than on whether it’s the right decision, be prepared to waste a lot of time and energy managing those feelings rather than making a decision.

Your feelings count, but they can’t be a deciding factor.  The fact that making this decision means you’ll have to do something that makes you uncomfortable doesn’t make it the wrong decision.  It just means you might have to suck it up and do something that you find hard.

So how DOES one make decisions well?  What criteria comes into play for fast decisions?

The best and fastest decision-makers ask themselves three questions.

Quality question #1:  Will this bring me closer to the outcome I want?

Great managers and leaders know what they’re aiming for, and therefore can match up this decision with whether it moves them towards their goals.

If it does, they proceed to question #2.

Quality question #2: What’s the worst case scenario?

When deciding in favour of taking a particular action, what’s the worst that can go wrong?  Will you lose a certain amount of money or time?  Will a colleague be angry with you?  Are you putting your career on the line?

Quality question #3: If the worst case scenario happens, can I handle it? 

Now that you’ve answered question 2, could you handle it if the worst case scenario happened? This is NOT about deciding how you’ll FEEL if the worst case scenario happens.  It’s regardless of how you’ll feel.  It’s about being clear on the potential downside and knowing it’s something that you could manage.

If your colleague will be miffed with you for a few days, could you handle it?  I’m guessing yes.  But losing your home or your career?  Not too many could handle that without significant upheaval in their lives.

If you allowed yourself to peek out from under the sheets at those bogey man decisions and committed to evaluating each one with the three quality questions in mind, which ones could you make a decision on right now?