Making the Right Decisions as a Leader


November 23, 2018

If you lead at work, in the home, or both, you have to make decisions.  Leaders who don’t make decisions don’t stay leaders very long.  However, decisions, by definition, involve risk.  It might be a risk of losing financial resources, time, energy, opportunity or key people.  This is one reason that leadership is so difficult:  there is no crystal ball.  So here are some tips to help you make the decisions you are required to make, and to make them well.

Do a SWOT analysis on the situation. 

Actually writing down the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of your situation helps a great deal.  This exercise provides two significant benefits.  It provides a great deal of structured information that will help you to think through the pros and cons.  Secondly, and just as importantly, it will center you and decrease any anxiety you might feel.  Anxiety can confuse your decision making; and the less anxiety the better.

Determine why this is important to your organization. 

Leaders must always use the lens of “what is best for my organization?”    Is it about cash issues?  Products and services?  Marketing?  Leadership?  Culture?  It’s your job to focus on what you are trying to achieve for your company and your people.  This will help you think clearly.

Bring your team in. 

Whoever is the right person for the decision, be humble and smart enough to get their advice.  You want to make sure you are doing the due diligence with people who know you, your company and your values, and people who have a track record of success in their own right.  They are likely to see some angle you never even thought of.

Think, “there is a solution.” 

There is always some solution, unless you literally have a gun to your head.  This sort of positive approach is not being in denial.  It is a sober realization that you are competent, capable, and have information and good people behind you.  This is realistic positivity, and it will help.

Use the 24 hour rule. 

Sleep on it.  Unless it’s a five alarm emergency, it helps to give a problem a 24 hour break.  I’m talking as a psychologist now.  Neuroscience research has shown that the brain never stops working, even when you sleep.  It likes to solve problems.  Think of your brain as a really smart Labrador retriever with lots of energy, bounding around from challenge to challenge, enjoying the process of tackling issues.  So while you are having dinner, or being with friends, or sleeping, your mind is looking at all sorts of possibilities.  I have been totally blown away by what I come up with after I sleep on an issue.

Decisions change organizations.  Good luck and lead well.

John Townsend, Ph.D.

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