Decision-Making Solutions

If you’re anything like the leaders I work with, you’ve encountered a few roadblocks in decision-making. When this topic comes up in our coaching conversations, we discuss three primary tactics to overcome decision-impairing roadblocks:

  1. Minimize the level of uncertainty. 
  2. Raise your comfort level with unavoidable uncertainties (perhaps harder to adopt).
  3. Refine your thinking to process information better and draw reasonable conclusions.

Each strategy contributes to a sturdy foundation for making choices, pointing the way to higher levels of knowledge, improvement and expertise. Leaders can thereby bolster their confidence and heighten their ability to make better decisions.

Notice that the first tactic doesn’t focus on eliminating uncertainty. Virtually all decisions carry some degree of uncertainty. If a situation is 100% certain, it wouldn’t require much of a decision (or a seasoned leader to make it).

Minimizing uncertainty requires the most accurate information available. Leaders can turn unknowns into facts by asking questions and considering as many angles as possible. Thinking outside the norm helps identify obscure issues. There should be no instances of “we never thought of that.” Great leaders take advantage of an experienced team to address relevant issues. Trying to attack decisions alone never matches collective brainpower. 

Consultants at McKinsey & Company advise leaders to remember they don’t know everything. Strong leaders tap the resources at their disposal and admit they can’t do everything themselves. Such transparency also raises the trust they earn. Greater support from respectful followers eases pressure, reduces perceived threats and lowers the anxiety of making decisions. There’s power in unity.

Peer coaching forums offer a more personal approach to receiving support. Conversations involve personal topics that develop close relationships between peers and enable trust. Leaders can be honest about the issues they’re going through, and receive accountability and encouragement. 

Leaders who embrace the discomfort of uncertainty make the greatest strides in growth, both personally and professionally. Becoming comfortable with some risks and strengthening one’s resolve through uncertainty makes decision-making less daunting. Draw solace in knowing all leaders are in the same boat, working under the same conditions. It’s part of the universal leadership experience. Allow risks to sharpen your focus and determination. Ultimately, you have little control over certain circumstances, so some degree of uncertainty is acceptable. It doesn’t prevent you from making great decisions.

In Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts (Penguin, 2018), World Series of Poker champion Annie Duke suggests shifting your focus away from how much uncertainty you have to the degree of confidence you’re facing. Make uncertainty a quantitative and objective analysis rather than an emotional concern. If you can estimate your confidence level, you can gauge where you stand and assess how much improvement you need to be comfortable making a decision. Gather pertinent facts to reduce uncertainty and make the wisest possible decision.

What do you think? Have you found other decision-making solutions? I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me here, on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

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