This is the seventh installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Decision Making.
We define Decision Making as analyzing all aspects of a situation to make consistently sound and timely decisions. Most people don’t take the time to really look at all aspects of an issue before diving in with a solution. This leads to rash decisions that tend to have unintended consequences.
As human beings, we make thousands of decisions every day. Some are more mundane, like what you’re going to wear or what you’re going to eat for lunch. But there are also the “big ticket” decisions. Like whether or not you should move to a new city or who you should hire for the open position at your company. Developing the skill of Decision Making gives you the ability to make the best decisions possible every time. For issues both big and small.
Our definition of Decision Making points out two aspects that make a decision effective, being both sound and timely. The soundness of the decision comes from gathering as much data and as many viewpoints as possible on the matter. The timeliness comes from not letting all that information gathering slow you down, but also not making decisions too quickly. Certainly, there are decisions that don’t take as much time to make because they are not as weighted as others. But making those bigger decisions too quickly can lead to missteps.
The best decision makers are able to synthesize a variety of factors.
Such as personal opinions, team needs, and corporate directives. And then make decisions that at least come close to satisfying the major requirements of all involved parties. People who are good at Decision Making do not suffer from an imbalance in the amount of focus they place on any one factor. They will most likely make decisions that place equal emphasis on all involved parties or concerns. Therefore, making decisions that are more likely to satisfy all needs.
People whose Decision Making skills need work typically don’t place equal importance on all aspects of a situation. And they often don’t utilize proven processes. Instead, they make decisions that satisfy some, but not all, of the factors or people involved.
Let’s say that a corporate directive has mandated that your department cut 20% of its operating costs, without performing any layoffs. A bad decision maker might just arbitrarily reduce all budget line items by 20%. A good decision maker would probably meet with the staff, both individually and as a group, to communicate the directive, discuss priorities, hear suggestions, and try to assuage fears.
Good, balanced decisions must be based on a deliberate, accurate analysis of problems. And should have a focus on resolving them in the best possible way. Good decisions are rarely if ever made in a vacuum. Rather, good decision makers ask for and respect the input of other people in their decision making process.
Decision Making is highly influenced by your Behavioral Style.
Based on our individual styles of behavior, some of us have a tendency to make decisions too quickly, while some of us make decisions too slowly. What are your tendencies? Good self-awareness will lead to better decision making.
If you’re a quick decision maker, an easy way to start improving your Decision Making is to examine every decision before you make it final. Stop and ask yourself how you came to that decision. Who did you talk to about it? What outside perspectives did you get? What do you expect the outcome of this decision to be? Is that a realistic expectation? Pausing to reexamine the decision one last time can help you make sure you’re not making an impulsive decision.
You can also work to be more educated about the consequences of your decisions. Try to determine how each option you have identified affects others, the budget, the goal of the program or company, and even people outside the organization such as clients or suppliers. And resist the urge to make hasty decisions unless the situation absolutely requires some type of immediate reaction.
If you’re a slower decision maker, make sure that you set a deadline. Give yourself permission to dig deep into the issue, but only for a certain period of time. After that period, use the information that you’ve gathered and make the best decision with what you’ve got.
And if, after your research, a course of action is still unclear and you cannot make a truly informed decision, choose what seems to be the best solution and implement it temporarily. The temporary solution may work well, or it may help you determine an alternate course of action. Take some of the pressure off your decision by giving yourself permission to revisit the issue.
Great leaders make great decisions.
Decision making is a skill that sets great leaders apart from others. Great leaders make informed decisions that move companies in the right direction. They don’t get bogged down in details. And they look at the situation from a big-picture perspective. They brainstorm to create a variety of potential solutions for each problem that they face. And they look for creative ways to approach each situation by determining how others have handled similar situations in the past.
Great leaders include others in the decision making process when they have the time. They make sure to continually communicate with others who will be affected by the decision and inform them of their final choice.
But they’re also not afraid to take leaps of faith when action is needed immediately. They use all the available information to make the best decision possible at that moment. And, they aren’t afraid to change their decisions if new information clarifies issues or presents new options.
Whatever the situation, know enough about yourself, about your team, and about the situation to be intentional with your decision making.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Decision Making skills, download our Decision Making Rx PDF here.