Three Habits of Effective Decision Makers
Great leaders recognize situations in which decisions must be made. I’m not talking about just those day-in, day-out kinds of choices. I’m referring to the tough calls, in particular, or when it’s time to make a stand. At MAP, part of our coaching involves helping leaders become more effective decision makers. We’ve found most employees don’t want to work for a leader who procrastinates, is slow to act, or is wishy-washy about making choices. They want someone who acts decisively and, when appropriate, quickly and fearlessly as well. Leaders who are indecisive on even a somewhat regular basis risk losing the respect of their people. But if you struggle with this, perhaps because you’re simply afraid to make mistakes, know you’re not alone. Lots of leaders wrestle with this worry. However, Disciplined Leaders learn to manage it and then build solid habits to support how they make—and remain true—to their decisions.
Here are a few of those habits:
Choose the right words. When it comes time to announce a decision, pick language that reflects a confident mindset that speaks from a place of purpose and power. For example, avoid phrases like “I have a recommendation,” “I would like us to,” or “I’m thinking this is going to be a good idea.” Instead, be more intentional with proactive phrases such as “I’ve decided XYZ,” “I want us to,” or “I’ve considered the facts, and this is what our company is going to do.” If you’re not sure whether you’re in the habit of choosing the right words, record yourself when leading a meeting or speaking to an important group. Listen carefully to your words, particularly when you’re talking about any decisions you’ve made or are announcing. What words or phrases created the effect you wanted? What words didn’t—and what would have been more impactful, communicating a more decisive, confident leader?
Set deadlines for decisions. If you procrastinate when making decisions, establish a due date to make the decision in your calendar. This will create fresh accountability around your goal. However, make sure you’re setting a realistic deadline to set yourself up for success from the start. Also, realize that deadlines sometimes get missed. Things come up that prevent your best intentions—life happens. When it does, it’s frustrating but don’t use that as an excuse to dodge the decision altogether. Get it back on the calendar immediately, setting a new time-specific goal and recommit to meet it. Build the accountability factor by telling others about the deadline you’ve set. Note: If you continue to struggle with meeting deadlines for your decisions, ask yourself: What’s getting in your way? If it’s something external that must be first addressed, get help to address it! Or if it’s more of an internal roadblock, such as your own “stuff” that’s getting in your own way of success, do the work to tackle that, too.
Don’t look back. Sometimes I’ve made the mistake of making a big decision then spending a lot of time worrying whether or not it was the right one. Chances are, we’ve all done that, right? But think of the time that it wastes, the time that could be better spent on more vital leadership responsibilities, including making even more major decisions! Bottom line, you can’t manage your past—only what’s going on right now in the present. So if you’ve made a decision you’re not sure about, try not to revisit it in your mind or rehash it to death with others. Demonstrate confidence in your decision and your leadership by remaining firm—and then move on.
What commonly prevents you from making quick decisions?