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What You Decide Might Not Matter as Much as How You Decide

Why leaders need to take a hard look at their decision-making process.

Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels
Source: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Successful people make decisions quickly and change their minds slowly.

Unsuccessful people make decisions slowly and change their minds quickly.

"This indecision's killin' me," sang The Clash (famously in two languages), and today's guest, Wendy Salajka-Pilcher, says that it's likely to be killing your organization too.

It's clear that our large and small decisions affect our outcomes. It's also true that leaders are put in place (and paid) to make difficult decisions. But Salajka-Pilcher suggests that a leader's decision-making process can communicate a great deal by itself and sometimes might even be a more significant determining factor than the content of the ensuing decisions.

There's no doubt about it. Decision-making impacts human connections.

Here's Salajka-Pilcher:

FACT: It is necessary for leaders to be decisive in order to create an environment where employees are motivated and committed to their work.

Indecisiveness leads to a lack of direction, confusion, and a loss of confidence in a leader. Loss of confidence in a leader can result in a loss of confidence in an organization. This can turn into a lack of efficiency, poor performance, and missed opportunities. It can also cause employees to become discouraged, less engaged, less productive, and less likely to take risks. Going in one direction with a project only to have to switch gears can be exhausting and frustrating.

But what causes indecisiveness?

Indecisiveness is almost always rooted in fear. Leaders are afraid of making the wrong decisions and suffering criticism or ridicule. Indecisive leaders will find they are also afraid of making decisions too quickly because they know they have to live with the consequences of their decision.

Somewhere along the way, they were conditioned to fear being wrong. They were never taught the exciting adventure exploring different ideas can take you on. This fear also stems from getting caught up in the belief that there is only one right way of doing something.

With that, they constantly question if they will make the right decision. Regardless of the origin of the fear, it can cause them to hesitate and second-guess themselves over and over. This behavior leads to them being unsure of their own decisions and ultimately leads to a lack of confidence in them by those they are meant to lead.

Another common cause of indecisiveness in leaders is the need to please everyone. Leaders with this mentality struggle with making decisions because it is very hard, perhaps even impossible, to make everyone happy. Time and energy are wasted trying to determine what they think their bosses, customers, or clients will consider the “right way” to do something.

This causes them to spend too much time spinning in indecisiveness, worrying the outcome won’t meet everyone’s expectations. Ultimately, delays in decision-making or even paralysis are the result as the leader tries to weigh the pros and cons of every potential option.

Decisiveness is essential in creating an environment where employees feel confident in their leaders. This helps them stay motivated, enthusiastic, and committed to their work. Leaders should be aware of their fears and find ways to maneuver around their limiting beliefs so they can make decisions in a timely manner. In addition, leaders should not spend so much time considering the potential consequences of their decisions.

When I work with organizations to help their leaders to make better decisions, I call this process simply "getting out of your head."

5 Steps to Quick, Confident Decisions Without Overthinking

1. Identify your goals. Take some time to think about what you want to achieve. Consider short-term and long-term goals, and note the steps required to reach them. This will help you clarify your purpose and focus your decisions. Be clear on the expectations of those above you and the confidence they have in you.

2. Gather information. Once you’ve identified your goals, research the available options. Gather as much information as possible. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to make the best decision. Get the input and opinions of your team, and make them feel part of the journey. Do not become a victim of “creative procrastination” when you over-research because it makes you feel busy (or look busy.)

3. Consider the consequences. Before you commit to a decision, consider the possible consequences of each option. Think about how it could affect you, those around you, and the situation you are facing. Don’t let the possibility of a negative consequence stop you from doing something you believe in.

Know that even if the decisions you make don’t produce the results you want, you and your team will still learn something and possibly gain a new skill. Considering the consequences is not about digging into your fears and letting them take control. It’s the opposite. This will teach you not to fear making decisions because there is always something of value as a result.

4. Make a choice. After you’ve done your research and considered the consequences, it’s time to make a decision. Listen to your gut and trust your instincts. Even though it may be difficult at times, be decisive and stick to your choice.

Don’t overthink it. When we get our brains involved, we tend to allow the negative voices inside us to take control. This is where fear and self-doubt cause us to question ourselves. Believe that instinctively and intuitively, you know what the right decision is.

5. Evaluate and adjust. Once you’ve made a decision and your plan is in action, take some time to evaluate how things are going at every step in the process. Make time to discuss the progress with your team.

Are things going as expected? Are there changes or adjustments that need to be made? In the end, debrief with your team. Did your plan work? If not, reflect on what didn’t go according to plan and adjust accordingly. This will help you make better decisions in the future.

Things done with confidence and decisiveness, even when it doesn’t turn out the way it was expected, are always easier to navigate through than anything built on a foundation that lacks certainty and self-assuredness. Staying stuck in indecisiveness has more negative consequences than confidently making a decision, even if, in the end, the situation or project doesn’t turn out the way it was expected to.

When you lead with self-assuredness and decisiveness, those who follow you will see the value in your decision, regardless of the outcome. So, what's your next move? Your team is watching.

Wendy Salajka-Pilcher is a keynote speaker and facilitator who focuses on getting you out of your head and out of your own way.

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