Decision-making is a critical skill for all business owners. After all, good decision-making is one of the driving forces behind a business’s success. Yet it’s a skill that many people struggle to master. Why? Because we are afraid to fail.
We often develop fears as a result of traumatic events or negative feelings experienced as a consequence of making a bad choice. Repercussions from poor decision-making can have deep and lasting effects on a person’s life. When compounded with fear that decisions have an impact on other people, our financial security, or someone’s health, many people prefer to avoid or delay a decision indefinitely to avoid potential negative consequences.
However, we often forget that not making a choice is itself actually a decision. You are choosing the default or status quo when you refuse to make a choice, especially when you are a business owner. Your indecision can affect your employees, customers, suppliers, and your bottom line. Consequently, indecision and its closely related counterpart, procrastination, may result in missed opportunities for personal and professional growth and loss of financial or experiential benefits.
Here’s why you may have difficulty making choices and how you can overcome the problem.
Overcoming the Problem
Imagine being a fighter pilot and having to make fast, rational decisions in high-stakes situations. Any indecision, even for a split second, could have dire consequences.
Military decision-makers are trained using the OODA Loop, a four-step process involving gathering all relevant information, recognizing potential biases, deciding, acting, and then repeating the process with any new information. A similar procedural approach to decision-making can be utilized to help with business or even personal decisions. Remember, anyone can implement enhanced decision-making tactics by taking a calm, logical approach to the problem.
1. Start with an Analysis
Begin by analyzing the situation to build the most accurate and comprehensive picture possible. First, determine the objectives you want to achieve and then the choices you have to satisfy them. Analyze what information you need to make the decision and disregard irrelevant data. Paring down the information to the specifics that apply only to the decision in front of you will make deciding less complex.
2. Examine Biases
We’re all familiar with the old “gut feel” method of making decisions. But trust me, your gut instincts shouldn’t be the only thing you use to make decisions! Your gut can make bad decisions as easily as good ones! Do a bit of introspective thinking by identifying what your “gut” is saying and analyzing the “why.” Inclinations or prejudice for or against something are called biases, and it’s worth understanding why you want to choose one option over another. Identifying your bias can help you set it aside and let you look at a decision from a more objective point of view.
3. Compare Your Options
Unfortunately, decision-making is rarely one-size-fits-all. So it’s important to weigh all of your options when making decisions. The old maxim of writing out a list of pros and cons still holds true. It’s also valuable to give each objective a weighting because simply adding up the pros and cons to see which list is longer is not necessarily the decision-making method. The consequences of a decision need to be appropriately considered and weighed. Systems like this Weighted Scoring Decision Matrix can explain this process further and even help you build a model to assist decision-making.
4. Question Your Assumptions
Get hard facts and figures to support every assumption, and avoid taking a leap in the dark. Research anything you don’t know to be fact and verify all the information you consider to know as fact. Explore the reverse point of view to consider a situation from every angle (remember step 1). Collecting data that supports only your position will only result in reinforcing your biases (remember step 2).
5. Walk a Mile in Another’s Shoes
If you’re having a difficult time with a decision, imagine you’re advising someone else on the issue. What would you advise someone who came to you about the same situation?
6. Take the Plunge
Once you’ve made a decision, commit to it. Don’t waste time second-guessing yourself. Plan and take action to see it through. Once you get started you may come across new information, at which point you may realize you need to reevaluate and pivot. This is where the process begins again, considering the new information you have.
Empowered Leadership helps businesses find freedom through business coaching, executive coaching, assessments, and training. Stacie is an entrepreneur who helps business leaders balance their time to run an effective business and enjoy their life.