It can be difficult to trust that you’re making the best choice. Here are some strategies to consider.
I find it helpful to remember that all of us struggle with decision-making from time to time – even highly successful people.
We all make decisions every day. But as you become responsible for more people or projects, your decisions become weightier. It can be difficult to trust that you’re making the best choice. Here are some strategies to consider.
1 Look at the problem from every side
When you’re faced with a difficult choice, try examining the problem from different angles and perspectives. Assume that you might not have all the facts and set out to find them, even if that means re-examining what you think you already know. Try to imagine how someone else would think about the choice at hand and how you would frame the choice and the options if you had to explain them to an outsider. I find it helps to try not to frame options as positive or negative at the start, as this can colour the way you view potential choices, sometimes at the expense of a good decision.
2 Beware your bias
We all have biases, but we can work to overcome these by becoming conscious of them. Experts suggest checking whether you’re making a decision based on confirmation bias (executing a choice based on an opinion that supports your presupposed beliefs). To help with this, you might get perspectives outside of your own – not just from people who think like you do, but people who will challenge your thinking too. This is why management teams need to include people with diverse personalities – it means that you’re more likely to see problems from different angles.
3 Consider the data
Evidence-based management (EBM) advocates using data to support decision-making. Of course, it’s important that the evidence you’re basing decisions on is up to date and reliable. You wouldn’t make the same offer on a car that’s driven 100 km as one that’s driven 100 000 km, and the same goes for business. We should always try to use the best data available to us to drive our choices. Again – we should be careful of only examining the data that supports our own opinions. We need to also look for evidence that counters it. Do thorough research and avoid the temptation to cherry-pick facts.
4 Recognise resistance to change
Often, decisions are made based on the status quo because it’s easier to keep doing what you have been doing than to make a change. It’s important to recognise this and to ask yourself whether you would choose the same course of action if you weren’t already on this course. For example, if I were to pitch a solution to an existing client again, would I do it the same way? Or would I change my approach? If the latter, how should that shape the way I am working with that client now? And, importantly, how I approach potential future clients?
5 Let go of past mistakes (and wins!)
It’s easy to think that what didn’t work before won’t work again, or that you can replicate a good decision. But the past is gone, and every decision needs to be evaluated in a context that is specific and current. Things may have changed, even if it doesn’t look like it at first glance. Come to terms with unsuccessful past decisions, learn from them, and don’t hang on too tightly to past successful ones.
6 Keep perspective
Choosing between two cover options on a presentation does not require the same level of probing as choosing between two potential hires. Learn which decisions you can delegate, which ones you can make quickly, based on intuition, and which ones require a deeper thinking process. Be guided by what’s at stake. Don’t be afraid to take time to decide on weightier issues, but also avoid the trap of overthinking them. If you’re in doubt, seek counsel from someone you trust.
Not every decision will be perfect and is a process. Part of leadership is acknowledging just that.
F.R. (Rhys) Robinson, PhD is Executive Director, Infinitus Reporting Solutions (Pty) Ltd, provider of enterprise-wide consolidation, planning and reporting solutions.