I’m sure most of you know that an organization, department, or a team’s health is only as good as the decisions made by its leader. Some prosper from leaders who make significant decisions, and others struggle after their leaders make some not-so-great choices.
The pressures and expectations we face in today’s business environment can cause even the best of us to make compromised decisions. Whether we want to admit it or not, research shows there are several inherent characteristics or roadblocks within all of us that prevent us from making better decisions.
I wanted to bring these to light and share some strategies for how to overcome them.
Decision-Making Roadblock #1: Uncertainty
Word of the Year: Uncertainty
The first roadblock that we typically don’t recognize is we are uncomfortable and overwhelmed with uncertainty. When you have a decision to make, but all you can think about are the ten other things that you don’t know, your mind starts racing with all the “Well, what if this?” and “What if that?” and you end up completely exhausting yourself.
When you’re in this state, one of two things typically happens. One, we tend to force certainty when it doesn’t exist. When we do this, we limit our view of the situation and all the possible outcomes. Then with that limited view, we decrease the chances of making the best decision.
Two, we tend to ask for more and more information hoping to create the certainty we desire. But, at this point, we don’t realize we’re just delaying making a decision and that in and of itself can have its own set of not-so-great consequences.
Decision-Making Roadblock #2: Pride
But it’s MY Decision.
The second roadblock stopping us from making decisions is letting our ego or pride get in the way. This blockage tends to happen when we believe we have all the answers, and so we don’t engage other people for perspective. Or, we engage them and ultimately dismiss what they have to contribute because we think we know better.
The reality here is that we are avoiding new ideas and a new way of thinking because we want to protect ourselves from feeling incompetent or inferior. When this happens, we are also avoiding discussing some of those unknown risks or other unknown elements. Our fear of not wanting to be wrong and making ourselves feel smart is getting in the way.
When we let our ego get in the way, we limit the view of what we can see and prevent ourselves from learning, growing, and making better decisions.
Decision-Making Roadblock #3: Fear
It just stinks to be wrong.
The third roadblock is that we fear making a bad or the wrong decision. It is often one of the most challenging roadblocks because it forces us to admit we have self-doubt, insecurity, or concern about our image. When we are fearful of making a bad decision, our heads aren’t in the right space – we tend to be looking at the decision through the lens of “what will it cost me/us”. And this roadblock leaves you deciding out of self-preservation versus what might be best.
Getting to the Bottom of It
On the path to sound decision-making, you need to overcome and get past these roadblocks.
The first and easiest thing to do is drive as much certainty as possible and minimize as much doubt as possible. Create a list of all the things you are uncertain about that could impact the decision you are trying to make and see what certainty you can bring to them.
Next, take time to identify the emotions coming up for you regarding the decision, e.g. angst, fear, insecurity etc.
Once you get those answers, the real work begins.
Now, you’ll want to start working through these emotions. A key thing to know here is that when these types of emotions come up, we usually make them out to be bigger than they really are, and this causes us to feel even more uncomfortable. Now, the key thing to realize here is that, yes, being uncomfortable really sucks! However, it’s not the end of the world. I invite you to sit in the uncomfortableness and not act on it. – yes seriously, try it!
Being uncomfortable doesn’t mean there is any real threat to you – so you don’t have to act from a place of self-protection or self-survival. Instead, take the time and really explore what’s driving the emotion. For example, maybe you’re feeling afraid because you think that if you make a poor or wrong decision, it will impact the trajectory of your career or you’ll be judged by others as the person who made “the most horrible decision ever”.
How true is it that the future trajectory of your career is going to be undeniably altered, and you’ll have this terrible label for making a wrong decision? In my experience, nine times out of ten, it’s a story we’ve told ourselves and it’s this story that has created the emotion, and crazy enough, it’s an untrue story that we’ve bought into. So, the bottom line here is to figure out what you’re feeling, what “untrue” story you’re telling yourself and then set yourself straight.
In the above example, this could be as easy as calling BS on yourself and recognizing there really aren’t any irrevocable consequences on your career if the decision turns out to be less than perfect – I mean seriously, how many people have you really seen lose their job over one bad decision?
Instead, if this happens to you, try a new, more truthful story. In this case maybe it’s starting to recognize that at some point in your career you will make a less than optimal decision(s) and making a less than optimal decisions is part of the leadership journey that will ultimately propel you to future greatness.
Remember, decision-making roadblocks are inherent within all of us – our success resides in our ability to bust through and learn from them.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the roadblocks; do they resonate with you? Have you experienced and overcome them? Are you still struggling with them?
And of course, feel free to reach if you’d like some help identifying your decision roadblocks, uncovering insecurities, and how to map out a strategy to overcome them.