Technology makes us constantly available and bombarded with endless amounts of information. Leaders must be able to sift through all the incoming information and make quick decisions that could drastically impact personal and professional lives. With this responsibility, we leaders must prepare ourselves so that we make the most effective and efficient decisions.
Before we learn what to do, we must understand what causes us to make poor decisions. If you’re like me, you have often found yourself asking, “What was I thinking?” Why is that? Why do smart people make stupid decisions? There are many reasons, but below are some of the most common mistakes that lead to poor decision making.
1. Overconfidence: Many of us believe that we are bigger than any one decision or that we are strong enough to weather any storm. This oversight causes us to misinterpret data, not pay attention to trends or threats and believe we are untouchable. Regardless of how big we are, none of us are immune to poor decisions, just ask Blockbuster, Toys R Us, Sears or Polaroid.
2. I must be right: Because the tension felt with being wrong is so uncomfortable, we will seek information to prove our hypothesis and ignore important facts. Often, we will compound problems by continuing to prove ourselves right, thus, creating a problem big enough to destroy us.
3. Lack of self-awareness: Our emotions, bias, assumptions, fears, strengths and limitations are always in play. These beliefs impact the lens with which we see the world. If we are unaware of these factors, we fail to see different perspectives and fail to maximize our potential to solve a problem.
4. Lack of information: If we don’t have all the information, it is extremely difficult to make an effective decision. Many of us seek only the information that validates us, or we are given incorrect information, or we receive too much information. Poor or too much information slows us down and increases risk or procrastination.
5. Being isolated: Often, leaders feel like we must make all the decisions on our own and fail to gain insight from a group of wise mentors. Failure to seek advice limits our ability to see the whole picture.
When we are aware of the behaviors that cause poor decision making, we can then create a plan to avoid those pitfalls and learn to make more effective and efficient decisions by:
1. Become more self-aware. This alone will drastically improve decision-making. As we become more in tune with our mental awareness, social interactions, hopes, fears, dreams and ambitions, we will begin to understand our strengths and weaknesses when it comes to making effective decisions and respond instead of making knee-jerk reactions.
2. Surround ourselves with wise council. Seeking wisdom is one of the best steps we can take in order to make better decisions. This council should be comprised of people we trust, those who will encourage, question and challenge our thinking.
3. Create a safe environment: If the workplace environment feels hostile or unsafe, employees will only share information that pleases the boss. Effective leaders create a place where ideas can be shared, heard and challenged. By creating an environment where people are encouraged to share ideas, we increase our capacity for creativity and innovation. Including our team in this process, we are increasing buy-in and teaching them how to make decisions, thus improving our effectiveness and efficiency.
4. Envision best- and worst- case scenarios: If we only envision the good that can come from a decision then we become disillusioned. In addition to a preferred future, decisions can also have negative consequences. Those outcomes should be evaluated and measured. Then we need to use logic when proceeding.
5. Know and live by our values: Many times, we will have to make a split-second decision with high emotions and in the absence of our council. When this happens (and with all decisions), we must ensure our choices follow our values. We simply test our decision against our values and if they don’t match up, then we go in a different direction.
None of us can predict the future, nor will every decision be the best one. However, if we begin to be more self-aware, learn to value and listen to wise mentors and live by our values, we will continually make more efficient and effective choices.
Be a Champion Today!
Brandon Buck is CEO and owner of Infinite Strengths, a Boise-based coaching company.