You have a business process that you know needs to be updated.
The office copiers are aging and require more frequent repair and maintenance.
There's an under-performing sales person who has angered a key account.
Putting off decisions are weights in the back of your mind. The constant, nagging concern can decrease your effectiveness. Not to mention that the decision you aren't making could be hurting your office's effectiveness and/or business profitability.
There's a difference between mulling over options and avoiding making a final decision.
The ability to make decisions is a skill that you can learn and improve upon. The first step is to have the will to make those decisions. By now, you're familiar with the decision-making process, even if you've never actively thought about it:
- Define the issue and why a decision is needed
- Think up options/solutions
- Think through options and consequences and narrow down to two or three choices
- Choose and then follow through with an action plan
- Evaluate the results
Why Is This Such a Big Deal?
If you can't make a decision, what signal does that send to your staff? It's not a good one. Analysis paralysis is often worse than not making a decision or even making a poor decision. Effective decision-making does four things (and this applies personally and professionally):
- Maintain momentum
- Create a sense of urgency
- Move the focus from the past to the present
- Move beyond the pain
One key trait of successful business people is the ability to get things done. Not to get things done perfectly, but to continually make decisions to keep you moving forward. As the saying goes, “perfection is the enemy of the good.”
When a project stalls, the cause can often be traced back to someone reluctant to make a decision. That kills momentum. Yogi Berra was right, “when you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Use the best information you have and keep moving forward.
Loss of momentum can kill a project. When you're working on a project, a grind to a standstill causes a lose of focus, purpose, morale, and motivation. Over time, even making the wrong decision is better than a stoppage caused by refusal to make a decision – you can identify and fix problems caused by the wrong decision and keep going.
Create a Sense of Urgency. Not making a decision gives the impression that the next steps aren't important. Success is based on urgency. Urgency goes hand-in-hand with momentum. Use decision points to maintain a sense of urgency – placing deadline on when you need to make a decision is one way to do this. A sense of urgency creates energy and contributes to momentum.
Move the Focus from Past to Present. The key take-away from Spencer Johnson's book, "The Present," as well as many other peak performance books, is that to gain from life, we need to keep our focus on the present. Learning from the past is prudent. Dwelling on the past, especially on past mistakes, leads to worry and fear and can contribute to indecision. Always looking to the future by planning about what you're going to do also doesn't accomplish anything. Learning from the past and planning for the future are good things. Making a decision puts you firmly in the present and puts those lessons of the past and plans for the future into action.
Beyond the Pain. How many times have you procrastinated on a decision or task and carried the guilt of not getting the job done for a day or a week (or longer)? Avoid decisions often enough and the guilt adds up until unmade decisions crush you. Move on; make the decision; move beyond the pain and into getting things done!
Practical Tips and Strategies
Now that you understand why making decisions will propel you and your business forward, how can you begin to develop the decision-making habit? These tips and ideas for developing a mentality focused on making decisions will get you started.
Break Big Goals Into Manageable Steps. Whatever your goals are – run a 7 minute mile, lose 50 pounds, implement a state-of-the-art network infrastructure in your office, increase revenues by 15%, etc. – the larger the goal, the harder it is to get your arms around. When the job is too big, take a step back and break it down into milestones that'll steadily get your closer to your goal.
Create Your Own Decision Process. We have this idea of geniuses that they're, well, geniuses and they wake up bleeding great ideas and they just turn into greatness. The secret is that a consistent decision-making process/method is a key characteristic of genius. Sure, a genius has a high IQ, but effective geniuses have a method for problem solving. Find a method for making decisions that works for you and use it for every decision until it becomes second nature.
Create To-Do Lists and Prioritize. When you don't know what you're working on, you can make the wrong decision. You need to convert your decision into action. You don't need a fancy planner – a simple hand-written list can work. Whatever works for you is fine, but you do need a method to track you daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals to keep you moving forward.
Be Ready to Be Wrong. No one ever makes the right decision 100% of the time. Collect the data you can; consult with co-workers, leadership team, and employees; consider your alternatives; and then make your decision. Everyone's decisions fail sometimes. The obvious alternative is that you'll never succeed if you're too scared to make a decision because you might fail. Yes, you might – or, equally or more likely if you've done your homework – you'll succeed.
Evaluate Your Decisions. Decision-making should be a constant learning loop. This isn't an exercise in self-flagellation, but a learning experience. Look at your decision and figure out why a decision didn't work or why your process is working well. Over time, you'll develop an effective methodology that is yours and that works for you.
Take the First Step. It's trite, overused, and 100% true; the longest journey begins with a single step. Decide to decide. Resolve to yourself that you won't shirk from making decisions. Get going. You'll either have made the right decision and be one step closer to your goal. Or, you'll have made the wrong decision, which you can now correct and take one step closer to your goal. Larry the Cable Guy was right, “Git “r done!”
Begin to develop the decision-making habit with these tips. As you grow used to making decisions, you'll become a more effective leader.
Don't be afraid to ask for help – especially when deciding on the right copiers and printers for your office or how to most effectively manage your networks. Our goal is to help you make the right decision for your office.