Tips for Wise Decision-Making

As you manage your business, you will be faced with important decisions that may impact the future of your company. This may seem stressful, but keep these tips in mind and you’ll find yourself making wiser decisions in no time:

  • Define, as specifically as possible, what the decision is that needs to be made. Is this really your decision or someone else’s? Do you really need to make a decision? (If you do not have at least two options, there is no decision to be made.) When does the decision need to be made? Why is this decision important to you?
  • Brainstorm, and write down as many alternatives as you can think of. Be sure to use your resources (experienced friends and family, the Internet, etc.) to find out more about the implications of each option.
  • Visualize the outcome of each alternative. Do you feel more satisfied with one outcome than with the others?
  • Do a reality check. Cross off those alternatives that most likely will not occur.
  • Once you have made your decision, get moving on it. Worrying or second-guessing yourself will only cause stress. You have done your very best. Remember, no decision is set in stone!

Common Decision-Making Mistakes

Have you ever found a decision you made is not based on sound reasoning? Our brains screen and categorize information based on what society (i.e., parents, teachers, the church, all institutions, etc.) teach us, not what we actually know to be true. Here are some common mistakes leaders encounter when trying to make a decision:

  • Relying too much on expert information. Experts are only human and have their own set of biases and prejudices just like the rest of us. By seeking information from a lot of different sources, you will get much better information than if you focused all of your energy on only one source.
  • Overestimating the value of information received from others. We tend to overestimate the value of experts, authority figures, parents, high status groups, people who seem to have it all together, and people we respect. Ask yourself:  Do they know as much about this problem as I do? Are their values the same as mine? Have they had any personal experiences with a problem like mine? Keep their opinions in perspective.
  • Underestimating the value of information received from others. We also tend to discount information we receive from children, low status groups, women (yes, believe it!), the elderly, homemakers, blue-collar workers, artists, etc. Many times these groups paint a picture of the other side of your problem. They may use entirely different values and perceptions in their answers to your questions. The result is a larger perspective of what the issues really are.
  • Only hearing or seeing what you want to hear and see. If we have expectations or biases that we are not aware of, we tend to see what we want to see.  Likewise, if someone tries to tell us something we do not want to hear, we simply do not hear them. This is a common mistake that many people make. The key is to be aware of your own prejudices and expectations.
  • Not listening to your feelings or gut reactions. Have you ever made a decision only to have it be followed by a major stomach ache or headache? This is your body talking to you. Our brains are constantly taking in  information that gets stored in our subconscious. In moments when we need to make a decision, our bodies provide clues to the answer through feelings or gut reactions coming from our subconscious. Tune into this intuition and you will make much wiser decisions.

Remember to follow through on your decision and take the steps to accomplish it. A decision is never complete until you fully implement it with confidence and courage.