Make Better Decisions

Businessman Forward Path

Twice a month Gina Ragsdale  (NPM UpStreet Director) and I work with a team of leaders and walk them through a development session. It’s a place where we can invest in our leaders and encourage discussion and debate. This is one of the outlines we shared with our team. Feel free to use it to develop the leaders around you.

Before you arrive: Think of a tough or complicated decision that you are currently working through or have made recently. Be ready to share with the group.
One of the biggest mistakes I see young leaders make is reacting instead of deciding. It’s important to remember that you gain influence as a leader one good decision at a time.  It is also more likely that your supervisor will trust you with greater responsibility and opportunity when they trust how you think through and make decisions.

Here are a few things to remember about decisions:

  • Decision making is a strategic endeavor. Your decisions take you somewhere.
  • Decision making is political. You often need buy in from others.
  • Decision making builds or breaks trust. Quick, poorly thought through decisions on important matters will cost you.
  • Decision making gives you influence or takes it away. Wise decisions are noticed by those you lead.
  • The more far reaching or the bigger impact the decision – the more time you should take.
  • There are very few IMMEDIATE  and important decisions to be made. Those are called emergencies & you should have a plan for them.
  • Pray and ask God to lead you. Never make a decision that goes against what you value or personally feel is wise.
  • As often as possible … Push the PAUSE button & make a good decision.

As You Walk Through the Outline: Have each person in the group share their big decision (we usually have 4-6 people in the group at a time). Then as you talk about each point, ask them to share how this point connects to the decision they are making or have recently made. I find that development happens best when it can be easily connected to real life work.

How to make a good decision:

  1. Push the decision to the right person. Don’t make decisions that are not yours to make. If someone on your team knows more about the situation and has more personal ownership, they should make the decision. It’s important for every leader at every level in the organization to be good decision makers. They will  likely make a better decision than you will because they are the closest and understand the ramifications the best.
  2. Ask good questions. Keep asking questions until you understand the scope. The more people the decision affects, the more people you should ask for input. I am wired to make quick decisions and it’s gotten me in trouble more than once. Often at the last minute I will ask one more question that gives me input that changes everything. I’m always so glad I slowed down for long enough to ask one more question. Think about what you are trying to find out and ask great questions. Then be quiet and really listen.
  3. Seek wise counsel. Someone has done it before. There are very few completely unique decisions to be made out there. Gather insight from those who have been there. What did they do? What did they learn? What would they do differently?
  4. Lean on your past experience. This is why evaluation is so important. After any major event or big decision, gather the right people in the room and gather feedback. Squeeze every bit of learning you can from the situation. Take good notes so you can look back and remember. How did this work before? What was good? What went wrong? What did we learn?
  5. Brainstorm all of the options. Evaluate risk. What’s at stake if this doesn’t work? What could go wrong? How much will it cost? Is there a simpler way to do this? What’s at stake if we don’t do this? What are the pros and cons?
  6. MOST IMPORTANT: Think it through.This is the step so many leaders miss. They are super busy talking about it and gathering feedback. They hope that someone will say something that will magically give them the right answer. Few important decision work out that way. Weigh all of the options. Consider what you personally value. In light of all the information you have, what’s the best thing to do? A great thing to ask yourself is “What would a great leader would do?”
  7. Prepare to cast vision for the “why” behind the decision.Not everyone will be on board with your decision and inevitably your decision will affect a group of people. Before you go public with your decision, think through how you will cast vision and explain “why” you feel this is the right thing to do. Think through your communication in advance and you’ll have a better chance of getting everyone on board.

Not every decision needs to go through this grid. The more experience you have and the less there is at stake, the more quickly you should make simple decisions. Don’t freeze and slow down your team because you can’t decide if you should spend money, change a date, or print a post card.

The more practice you get making big decisions, the faster you’ll be able to move through this grid. But remember the goal is not speed. The goal is GREAT decisions that take your team in the right direction.

What do you do when you need to make a big decision?

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