Ten Keys to Great Decision-Making (Part 1)

Decision-making and leadership go hand in hand. You don’t get one without the other. And when the pressure is on, the ability to be decisive is essential. The real question is, “How do leaders consistently make great decisions?” Here are the first five of ten keys to making great decisions:

1. Acknowledge Your Core Values – The things we believe most deeply impact our decisions most significantly. Those values serve as a filter through which we make our most important decisions. The key is to clarify what those core values are. Author and management expert Ken Blanchard says, “The good news is that once core values have been set in place–identified, communicated, and impacting behavior–they become the boss.” Core values are the constant beliefs, principles, and priorities that guide your life and determine how you think and behave. They’re like the internal rules of the game. They establish boundaries for conduct, practices, and decision-making. And they serve as an anchor for the way we live. Without clear core values, your decision-making will lack consistency.

2. Gain Adequate Information – Gathering information, facts, and details is crucial in the decision-making process. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, don’t rush your decision. Take time to read, research, interview, ask questions, and see the issues from different perspectives. The deeper your pool of information, the greater your ability to make a smart decision. Unfortunately, some leaders have pulled the trigger too quickly on a decision and inadvertently pulled the plug on an information pool that was already too shallow. Without adequate information, your decision-making will be filled with loopholes.

3. Ask the Right Questions – Answers are important. But the right questions are more important. You cannot get what you need to make good decisions if you don’t know the right questions to ask. Learn to focus on the why behind the what. Look at the big picture before getting bogged down in the how. The right questions enable us to find the right answers, which in turn empower us to make the right decisions. Without the right questions, your decision-making will answer the questions nobody is asking.

4. Seek Advice and Input from Other Leaders – In his book, The Tipping Point, Malcomb Gladwell encourages leaders to access mavens to gain the knowledge they need to make good decisions. Mavens are people who have a lot of knowledge and are willing to share that knowledge with you free of charge. As a leader, avoid the temptation to prove yourself by acting with a lone ranger mentality. Surround yourself with leaders that can coach you and provide wisdom from their reservoir of experience. Without advice from others, your decision-making will lack perspective.

5. Reflect on Past Experience – Experience is perhaps the greatest of all teachers–so long as you reflect on your experience to acquire insights that can shape decision-making. What has been your track record when faced with similar issues? What were the outcomes of your decisions and what would you do differently if you had it to do over again? Don’t stop there. Learn to access the experience of other leaders as well. If you know of a leader that has faced a similar situation, ask them how they handled it. If you know of a biography that portrays a leader able to make decisions in the midst of difficulties, read their story. When you combine your experience with the experiences of others, it becomes increasingly clear what your decisions should be. Without reflection on experience, your decision-making will lack depth and maturity.

Questions: Which of these keys has been most impacting in your decision-making process? Which one do you need to engage more intentionally?

(For part 2, click here.)