Being a leader comes with a lot of power. You may find that you’re often in the decision making role of your department or company. And they’re counting on you to make the right decision. As we learned from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility.” The pressure that comes with that power can feel overwhelming at times. It’s not uncommon for new leaders to struggle with knowing how to make the right decisions for themselves, their teams and companies.
If you struggle in this area, you’re not alone. One study done by Harvard Business Review found that “57% percent of newly appointed executives said that decisions were more complicated and difficult than they expected.” And it’s not just new leaders that struggle either. Even leaders who have been in the role for years can find themselves struggling with decision-making for any number of reasons.
If you can relate, here are some things that you can do to improve your decision making skills as a leader.
Expand your options
When you find yourself making decisions, are you usually choosing between two choices? This is a rut that a lot of people fall in. But it limits the potential outcome that you could achieve. Here’s an example:
You have a struggling employee on your team. Their productivity has decreased and they’re making mistakes. You’re worried that it’s going to start to cost the company by losing customers, so you’re debating whether you should fire them or wait and see if they improve.
This seems like an obvious decision to consider, but what if you expand your options as you think about what to do? Instead of thinking you either have to fire them or continue on the same path, what could you do that could lead to a different outcome? Some ways to expand your options would be:
- Identify if there is something that’s getting in the way of their work ethic. Sometimes a drop in productivity and quality is an indication that your employee is dealing with a mental health challenge. If this is the case, you can explore ways that you can help them address their challenge to improve their life, both at work and home.
- Provide additional training. Your employee may be lacking in the skills they need to excel at the job. Instead of firing them and finding someone with the right skills, you could help your employee develop those skills.
- Explore other roles for the employee. You may have a great employee that’s been placed in the wrong position. If you move them to a different role or department that matches their strengths and interests, they may begin to excel.
Next time you’re wondering what to do when making a decision, see if you’re only deciding between two things. If you are, look for ways to expand the field.
Get the opinion of experienced individuals
Sometimes it helps to get the opinion and expertise of a third party. But here’s the catch, you can’t ask just anyone. Some leaders that struggle with decision making make the mistake of asking for everyone and anyone’s opinion. The problem is that not everyone has experience with the decision you’re trying to make. This means they are purely giving you their opinion that might be backed by nothing.
Before you start asking for advice and opinions, think about who you know that has personal experience with making a similar decision. Those are the people that are worth asking for advice from. They can share their experience and the good and bad that came as a result. This can help you to make a more educated decision.
I also want to warn you away from asking “yes people” for their advice when making a decision. These are the people who are too afraid to speak their minds, especially if it means saying something that might go against your thoughts or opinions. If you are surrounded by “yes people”, it’s a good indication that you need to make some changes. If you’re unable to handle interacting with and hearing the opinions of those who disagree with you, you’re not really benefiting the way you think you are.
Push past the fear of making a wrong decision
Of course, no leader wants to make a bad decision. But if you’re so worried about making the wrong decision, you might get stuck in the cycle of not making any decisions. And there are plenty of quotes from exceptional leaders sharing the message that not making a decision at all is the worst decision that you can make.
Perfectionism can drive you to not making a decision. Fear of failure can cause you to not make a decision. It’s normal to struggle with both of these things, but it doesn’t mean that you need to stay stuck there. I’ll make it easier for you—you’re going to make mistakes. There, did that help?
Every leader makes the wrong decision from time to time. Every leader makes mistakes. But the great leaders understand that a few wrong decisions aren’t going to be the end. They can use the information that they gathered from the experience to make better decisions going forward.
Don’t just trust your gut
Let me clear this up. It’s important to learn how to trust your gut, but every decision that you make as a leader should not be based on your gut instinct. When you’re faced with a decision, take the appropriate amount of time to look at all the facts involved. Make sure you understand the parameters around the decision that you’re making. If you have carefully weighed all your options and there isn’t a clear winner, then that is when you decide to listen to what your gut says.
Understand company goals
If your company or department doesn’t have clear, established goals in place, decision making can be harder than it needs to be. But when you do have established goals, you can weigh each decision that you need to make against the impact that it will have on help you push forward to your goal.
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