We spend a great deal of time making decisions. What to wear, what to eat, what to do this weekend. Yet decision making can be enormously stressful, because a decision usually involves a change in the status quo.
The first step in making decisions is to set yourself a deadline for the decision. Sometimes a decision should be made within seconds (should I offer this client a discount to secure the sale?) and sometimes it can legitimately take years (retirement planning). As a rule, you should move fast on decisions that are not material, and decisions that can be reversed down the line if it appears to have been the wrong decision. Spend more time on material decisions that will have a significant impact or cost and decisions that are non-reversible. But draw a line in the sand so it doesn’t lurk unnecessarily in the shadows.
Every decision requires an analysis of the situation and the potential outcomes. It’s a fine line. Overthinking can result in you taking cognisance of irrelevant information or analysis paralysis and procrastination. Kneejerk decisions are equally risky, because you need to think things through.
So how do we find the balance? As a business and executive coach, I help business owners and leaders make tough decisions all the time. Try bizHQ’s OOOOO Model for Making Decisions.
Every action and decision needs to link to a primary goal, dream or objective. The first question that you need to answer is “Will this decision lead us closer to achieving our primary objective?” The next question to ask is what outcome you are hoping for by making this decision? More sales, better efficiency, freeing up your time? Once you know what outcome you want, you can assess the likelihood of the outcome being achieved by making your decision. Remember, not making a decision is a decision not to take action.
What are your alternatives? Put them onto a spreadsheet or a piece of paper and weigh up the pros and cons, assess their qualities, and rank them. This will help clarify your thinking. Remember, when you are making a choice amongst alternatives, there is no right and wrong.
When making decisions, you need to remove emotion and focus on the hard facts. What would you advise someone else in your position to do? Another effective exercise is to imagine that your decision will appear on the front page of the newspaper. Put to public scrutiny, what would others think of the decision you made?
Identify what obstacles you would need to overcome should you make the decision. What are the risks? I always advise people to think of the absolute worst thing that could happen as a result of the decision you make. Could you live with that? Would you get past it? Could you reverse the decision? Could you start again? Most times the worst case scenario is no worse than your current situation. Sometimes having a backup plan or plan B also gives you the confidence to make the decision, knowing you have something to fall back on.
Once you have made the decision, commit to it, take ownership and responsibility for it and restructure things to enable the decision to work for you. Don’t give in to second thoughts, second guessing yourself and remorseful thoughts. These will only hold you back from taking the next step. Remember, while some decisions will give you relief, excitement and comfort, some of the best decisions could make you nervous and frightened. As long as the decision does not compromise your values and integrity, these feelings are great. Embrace and channel them to make your decision work for you.
If you have a decision weighing on your shoulders right now, apply our OOOOO model, and let us know if it works for you!