The responsibilities of a leader are many. On any given day, a leader must uphold and exemplify the vision of the company, one that he or she set to begin with. Building a strong supportive cast and implementing team development programs is another essential duty. In addition, there are leadership roles at various levels that require communicating with upper and lower management. For any role, a common denominator is decision making.
Approaches to making strong decisions vary from person to person, though a few are pretty universal in nature. Some of these include leveraging past experience to address new problems, posing the if/then hypothetical, and even relying on one’s instincts. Many others exist that may not be as intuitive. For leaders who want to improve their decision-making processes, consider putting into practice these nine suggestions.
Start with attitude
Whether at home or in the office, one of the first decisions a leader can make is to choose a positive outlook. Determining the attitude for the day will help to clear the mind and influence the decisions made. Although simple in scope, this can create a snowball effect—a positive one. Of course, the opposite is also true.
Develop emotional intelligence
Closely related to choosing a positive attitude is self-awareness. Emotional intelligence, or EQ, can balance out IQ in decision-making scenarios. Leaders should take inventory periodically throughout the day to see how different emotions might influence and even hinder optimal evaluation of questions and challenges. Developing EQ is one way leaders can prepare themselves for making decisions regardless of the pressures and timeframes placed upon them.
Know when to take charge
Identifying the time to act is a skill that everyone should learn, leader or not. People make some of the most defining decisions in life when they realize that a given situation is solely up to them. By seizing the moment and finding a solution with no one around to give orders or direction, individuals will strengthen their ability to lead decisively.
List options and record thought processes
More often than not the issue that needs deciding will not have a black-and-white solution. When a yes or a no fails to suffice, keep a written record of the possible avenues (including backup plans should any strategy fall short).
A complementary practice is jotting down the different elements that influenced your decision—this could be as simple as a “what we know” list. With data in hand, leaders can look back and remember why they chose one direction over the other, rather than having to waste time figuring out what they had thought at the time.
Evaluate the costs involved
Part of creating lists, and one that bears its own mention, is outlining the costs associated with each possible solution. Being thorough on this end will greatly contribute to the decision-making journal. More often than not, benefits outweighing costs equals a defendable choice, one that a leader can stand by.
Recognize any personal biases
Bias, like emotion, is an often too-subtle-to-notice influence on decisions. In many instances, having a firm position going into a particular situation will help a lot, but knowing that you have that position is even better. Awareness of any cognitive biases will assist in determining whether or not an issue needs review with fresh eyes.
Test ideas against the thoughts of others
Another great way to overcome any unhelpful biases is to pitch an idea to an executive team or to trusted colleagues. Leaders should observe and take note of initial reactions, comparing them with the overall sentiment once they have given the solution more consideration. Seeing how an idea will impact others before implementing it will foster a better sense of how to move forward.
Leaders may also try imagining a scenario in which their decision gains widespread publicity. They should ask themselves questions such as, “How would my solution look in a headline?” and “What would my staff think of the article?” Maintaining open channels in the office that allow for weighing the hypothetical and having the big conversations and debates will strengthen and refine the decision-making process.
Decide without delay
Procrastination typically weakens a decision—or at least takes away some of the resulting benefits. However, finding the right balance and giving issues the time they deserve can be a challenge. This is when a decision-making journal again comes into play, as a written record of the time spent on different situations that vary in scope and importance can help in making future adjustments. Timeframe aside, the most important thing is to never let a problem go undecided.
Maximize daily practice
Leaders will never have a day free of decisions, which is a good thing—this gives ample room and opportunity for practice. Avoid indecisiveness and form conclusions instead. Sticking to them will pay dividends.