The Power of Decision Making: How to Make Better Ones

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Here are some insightful thoughts about decision-making in the workplace, and how to make better ones.

Being indecisive is difficult enough for most people, but when you’re a leader in a business environment, not being able to make good decisions in a timely manner can have far-reaching, detrimental effects.

Here are some insightful thoughts about decision-making in the workplace, and how to make better ones.

Measure the Pros and Cons

If the decision is one that you have some time to review, you can use the two-column, pros and cons list method. You’re probably already familiar with this one.

Essentially, you take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. In one column you list the pros, and in the other you list the cons. Whichever column is the longest list, wins.

The pros and cons method only works if there are only two sides to the decision, though. If you have multiple factors influencing the decision, or several people or companies involved, your decision probably won’t be solved with this simplistic approach.

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Throw Out Everything You Think You Know 

Creative people are known for being able to think outside the box. The secret to thinking outside the box is to throw out everything you know (or think you know). With this method, assumptions are the monkey wrench in a good decision. That’s why you have to disregard anything you’re assuming.

Here’s an example scenario:  You’re trying to decide between two, equally competent and loyal employees to promote to a higher position within the company. You would probably agree that it’s reasonable to assume that:

  • Both employees would perform with the same excellence that they do in their current roles
  • Both employees would be happy to receive the promotion
  • Both departments will survive if they lose those two employees

With these assumptions, it’s no wonder you would have a challenging decision to make.

However, these assumptions are misleading. First, the new position may require social, managerial or technical skills that one of the employees doesn’t have or can’t learn. One prospect could be eliminated by these criteria.

Second, not everyone likes promotions for reasons like; they might require longer hours, working in a building that would increase their commute, or dealing with hazardous materials, or working under someone they don’t get along with. So it’s possible you could eliminate one prospect just by discerning if they would want a promotion or not.

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Third, one of the departments where the employee would leave may have a gaping hole that would be difficult to fill at this time and possibly have negative financial effects on the company. For this reason, you may want to delay promoting that person until they can train their own replacement.

Now you can see how getting rid of assumptions can help make decisions easier.

Have Faith in Your Intuition 

Most of us second guess ourselves when we make decisions, but anecdotal evidence suggests that our first instincts can be amazingly accurate. Even when there is little evidence, feelings of intuition can help to guide you in your business decision making. 

How many times have you said to yourself, “I always knew something wasn’t right about that!” That’s intuition in action, and it can be helpful to pay attention to your gut feeling.

It’s crucial, though to differentiate between your gut feelings and preconceived notions about companies or people. There’s a big difference between the two. It isn’t right to take a preconceived notion and try to rationalize it into a reason for making an unjust decision.

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Consider All the Angles

Many business decisions don’t just affect you or your department. They may affect the profits of the company or the entire future of the industry. It can be overwhelming to try to consider all the angles in such instances, but you must do so.

Try to be as objective as possible, and hypothesize as to how your decision, one way or the other, will influence others. This is the way to make powerful decisions that might not earn you a popularity award, but will earn you the respect of your colleagues.

Finally, when you do make a decision, stick with it. Don’t deviate unless there is material evidence that you’ve made a grave error in your judgment. Wavering after making a decision is worse than never making one at all. As long as you've taken the tips above into account, you should be able to have confidence in your own decision making abilities from now on.

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