When parents counsel their children about decision making, they typically boil it down to three words, “Make good choices.” It’s a pretty good framework for developing decision-making at all levels of life and it sounds infinitely more positive than “Don’t do anything stupid.” However, sometimes it’s easier said than done.
When it comes to making good choices, leaders face a double-edged sword. You feel the pressure to accelerate. After all, faster decisions conserve valuable resources, such as your time. You feel the pressure to get it right. Mistakes are costly. The stakes are high and expectations relentless. Replace your anxiety with a plan.
Keep it practical.
Good decision making follows the same rules as other constructive habits. The more you practice the better you become. Start by asking two obvious questions:
- What will enable me to make a fast decision?
- What will help me improve my accuracy?
It can be done. In order to make improve your decision making efficiency, you will need to simplify your thinking and develop a routine. It’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming increased complexity for paralysis or sluggish decision making. Rather than becoming a victim of your circumstances, take initiative and refine your critical thinking. Keep your stress level manageable by reducing the process to the most critical components and then give yourself permission to proceed with confidence.
Speed begins with internal preparation.
Faster decisions begin within. Nothing reduces friction like taking care of internal preparation ahead of time. You cannot speed up the process if you have not established the basis for your decisions in advance. The values that define your life and leadership must be readily accessible.
Too often decision making bogs down because of an inordinate focus on what is unknown. Ambiguity can escalate stress. Instead of allowing stressors on the outside to determine your pace, begin every decision with what is known. Do you know who you are? Do you know what you value? Do you know where you are going? You will arrive at “Yes” and “No” much more quickly if you work from the inside out.
Measure accuracy with the same standards.
Don’t complicate your accuracy score. The accuracy of decision making depends on the same factors that increase speed. Did the decision move you toward your vision? Did your choice reinforce personal and organizational integrity? Did it resonate with your principles?
The path toward sustaining accuracy in the future is well worn. Equip yourself with lessons learned along the way. Build on success. Learn from failure. Stay humble about the wins and remind yourself that your best decisions today are likely a product of learning from both wise and poor decisions made yesterday. Increased speed and accuracy will depend on both.
Don’t confuse short term accuracy with long term benefits.
Sometimes the measurement of contribution is not immediate. It is wise to evaluate the comparative value of decisions over time. Have you ever heard someone say, “If I had known then what I know now?” Well, you didn’t. Move on and learn. Measuring accuracy against core beliefs is much easier and should be done as quickly as possible. Refining accuracy over time depends on a rigorous willingness to evaluate, reflect and learn from success, failure and unintended consequences.
Every decision requires some faith.
Remember, you can control your choices. You cannot control the outcomes. The final catalyst for better faster decisions includes an element of discovery. Decision makers are not afraid to take initial steps of faith toward a vision that is not yet fully realized. Each step is grounded in what is known but leads forward to future adventure that is unknown. An overbearing desire to control outcomes can destroy speed and accuracy and hinder learning.
For more information about improving your decision-making, visit InitiativeOne.