Good decisionmaking can be learned and be helpful

  • Article by: LIZ REYER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2012 - 3:45 PM

QI have a hard time making decisions, and it's even more difficult now that I have a team to lead. How can I overcome my fear of making the wrong choice?

ARecognize that the risks of not making decisions are generally higher than the risks of making the wrong one, and then learn to move forward.

The inner game

Start by analyzing your experiences with decisionmaking. Set aside the emotion that has gone into your past experiences and take a detached look. If anxiety or stress creep in, take some deep breaths to settle into the present, and then continue. Consider what holds you back from making decisions, whether it's fear of conflict, making a mistake, or disappointing someone, so that you can get these factors out of your way.

Now focus in on decisions that you've made that have worked out well for you. Recall the steps you took, or the feelings that guided you. Knowing your own process will help you move past this static state that is holding you back.

Just as importantly, review situations that you'd have done differently. Be sure not to beat yourself up; just use it as a learning opportunity. For example, you may have asked one too many persons for input or rushed too hastily to a conclusion. Whatever you'd like to change, use these examples as ways to improve your future decisionmaking. Get feedback from others, too.

Consider your values around decisionmaking and team involvement. Do you prefer a consensus model vs. solo decisionmaking, or something in between? Think about successful decisionmakers you know, and envision ways that you could emulate the approaches they use, but in ways that are authentic for you.

Finally, map out a decision making model. For example, you may have steps that you follow, such as: Understand goal, assess risks and benefits of each possible approach, assess risk of not taking action, make a plan to move forward, and reflect on results afterward.

The outer game

Make a list of the decisions that you'll be facing in the next day or so, and mark the ones that might pose challenges.  Pick one for action planning, and detail the situation:

•What needs to be decided?

•Who else is involved?

•What is the timeline?

•What could hold you back from making a timely decision?

•Who could support you in making this decision?

When the time comes to act, take a couple of deep breaths and use your planning to help you. If there are unexpected changes, then take time, if needed, but with a defined timeframe: "I'll get back to you this afternoon."

Start with small, safe decisions; however, recognize that this is an essential leadership skill, so don't hold back too much. Remember that there is often much more fallout from failing to make a decision than from any decision you're likely to make.

Keep track of your performance, and reward yourself when you show decisiveness.  Analyze the circumstances if you fall short, but again, without blaming yourself.

The last word

Good decisionmaking can be learned, and the combination of skills and courage will help you succeed in your role.

What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at liz@deliverchange.com.

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