Decision Making Simplified

Sep 13, 2011

“When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.”
William James

Decision making is hard. We tend to get stuck and are afraid to jump in and make the decision. The “what if” questions creep in and prevent us from moving forward. Or, we move forward, but we question our decision. This article is aimed at helping you make a decision, as well as helping others with this process.

I was doing some coaching with someone recently, as he’s making a significant decision shortly with regards to his career. It’s a perfect example of someone consumed with the situation and needing an outside perspective to talk through the process.

We had a 30 minute call the other day and were able to make significant progress toward the best decision for him, his family and his career. After weeks of beating his head against the wall…what should I do? Should I leave? Should I stay? He was stuck in a state of over-thinking. Frustration was getting more significant. It was wearing on him immensely. He was stuck in weeds and couldn’t see the big picture.

I know this struggle from experience. In fact, it’s something we all struggle with. Sometimes you just need to step back, get your thinking at a higher perspective and evaluate it that way. Finding someone to help with talking through can be just the thing you need to get going.

The following will enable you simplify decision making

(These steps apply to making your own decision as well as helping others)

Start with listening – Get the details. Listen first to completely understand the situation. Don’t jump in too quickly. Let him/her talk through the situation.

Ask Questions – Confirming understanding and change focus to bigger picture. Get them talking more and looking at the process from a different perspective.

Focus on Outcome Thinking – You have to define what the outcome is. What does this person want to accomplish? Without this step, you’re not going to be successful.

Evaluate from the “Why” – Why are they in this situation? Why would a change be a good thing? Why would the status quo be a good thing? Getting to the “why” of the process is going to open up a lot of doors. Peel the onion on this one.

The Power of the T Chart – This is simplest way to get your mind straight. Most of you know what this is. You simply grab a sheet of paper. Draw a T that takes up the whole page. On the left side of the T are the Pros and on the right are the Cons. Simply start writing. I’m always a proponent of timing this. Give yourself 3 minutes to just write whatever comes to mind.

Yes, it's this basic

Evaluate what you’ve produced – Once you have the T Chart solidified, go through one by one and see what’s the most important to you. For example, as we were working through this, we discovered that staying close to home and not traveling all the time was a high priority. This held significant weight when it came to evaluating the decision.

On the flip side, one of the key pros was looking further down the line at his career path. If he chose to move to this particular position, he’d be working with a person he respected and can learn from. For me, this is imperative; both for current execution, performance and for future advancement. Environment in a job setting is important. Working with people that you can collaborate with and not hold anything back is vital.

Let the Decision Wait a Bit – You have to let this thinking/process sink in. Put the sheet away for a few hours, even for a couple days. Come back to it. Some items may change. New channels of thinking may open up.

When helping others, they need to make the final decision – This is important. It’s not your decision. You can give your recommendation but implore them that this is their decision. You’ve talked through the options, the pros and cons. Feel free to re-confirm them with whomever you’re working with. Then, always ask them what they’re thinking.

Move and don’t look back – Once the decision is made, talk about the “when.” Some people are very slow to make a decision and get stuck in a gray area. You need to talk through this. Commit to a date. Setup some to time to talk again, if someone’s helping you. This fosters accountability.

Remember, decision making is not easy

You’re not always going to make the right decision. Making a decision, however, is much better than no decision at all. We get stuck in the runway level of thinking because we’re in it everyday. The most important to step is back up a bit and look from this higher level. I can’t stress enough the importance of an outside perspective. I’ve talked in the past about your “Board of Directors.” I know any big decision I make is vetted out with my “crew.”

Good luck with your decisions and don’t be afraid to help others. Giving to someone is one of the most rewarding things you can do in life. For me, it’s been great working with others and helping them make decisions.

If you’re interested in one-on-one coaching, I’d love to work with you. Feel free to reach out and we can discuss the process and options.

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