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Making Better Decisions

Managers make choices that can impact the business every day. The decision-making process can be a difficult one. But it’s one you should master if you want to have the leadership skills to run a company.

There are a few key skills for effective decision-makers. These skills strengthen your decision-making abilities:

  • Problem-solving: The ability to identify a problem and find solutions is crucial to decision-making. This will help you remain calm under pressure and identify the best solutions.

  • Data analysis: The ability to perform your own analysis or delegate to the right employees so you can understand and assimilate the information is vital. It’s also important to know what kind of data you need.

  • Time management: Some choices require quick action. The ability to make sound, informed decisions within the necessary time limits is a critical skill.

  • Communication: Clearly and effectively communicating decisions is essential.

  • Active listening: Active listening keeps you informed of progress, work processes, and how employees are doing at their jobs. And, it gathers information that you can use when you need to make decisions quickly.

  • Humility: Sometimes the most important skill for a decision-maker is recognizing and owning when another person’s idea is better than your own. It’s necessary that you’re able to make the right choice and monitor your ego so you can use the best idea, regardless of who came up with the solution.

  • Mediation: Different opinions can lead to disruptive conflict. The ability to assess each staff member’s opinion, be fair, and diffuse conflict is very important.

  • Planning: Business decisions often involve potential pitfalls. Planning well helps your team avoid unexpected setbacks.

  • Leadership: A great decision isn’t worth very much if you can’t convince others of it. Leadership skills help you persuade others that your decision is the right one.

Decision-making is a vital process for any business. When done properly, decision-making involves taking evidence and combining it with past experience to make intelligent choices.

Once made, decisions need to be capable of being implemented. So, you as a leader need to be committed to the decision personally, and able to persuade others that it is a decision with merit.

There are a number of problems that can prevent effective decision-making. A leader must be open-minded and vigilant to make certain these are not negatively affecting the decisions.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. Do we have enough information? Take time to gather the necessary data to inform your decision, even if the timescale is very tight. Identify what information is most necessary.

2. Do we have too much information? Too much information can give analysis paralysis. It can be a tactic to delay decision-making. It is helpful to have a timetable and deadline for gathering information.

3. Do we have too many people? Making decisions by committee is difficult, as everyone has their own views and values. It’s important to know these views, and why and how they are important. But it may be necessary to limit who actually makes the decision to one person or a small group.

4. Are we struggling with vested interests? Vested interests are often not openly expressed, so it is hard to identify them clearly and address them. Sometimes an equal leader who is outside the process can help explore the alternatives. Also, discussing the alternatives with all the stakeholders with an impartial facilitator can help.

5. Are emotional attachments hindering us? Decisions generally evolve, and people can be very attached to the status quo. We must remember that deciding not to decide is a decision all in itself.

6. Do we lack emotional attachment? You will have a hard time making a good decision if you simply don’t care one way or the other. You can better your decision by simply making a list of the pros and cons.

Keep in mind, when you have good data to work with, you have a better chance of making a good decision and predicting the outcome of your decision. You also have better information to lead others to the right decision.

Keep in mind also the effects of your decisions on others—the community and the company bottom line. You cannot make ethical decisions without those considerations. Ethical decision-makers consider the effects of their decisions on their communities and the company’s bottom line.

If you want to develop your leadership skills, think about your decision-making process. The University of Massachusetts and Dartmouth has a simple 7-step process for effective decision making:

  • Identify the decision

  • Gather information

  • Identify alternatives

  • Weigh the evidence

  • Choose among alternatives

  • Take action

  • Review your decision

Perhaps one of the toughest issues about making decisions is living with the decision after you’ve made it. You will not be productive if you continue to second-guess yourself. You can look over the situations and learn from them. It’s wise to monitor your decisions, and if a decision proves to have not been good, you can change it when it is appropriate.

Decision-making will make or break a leader. You can make them strong and effective if you work at it!

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