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5 Steps to Decision-Making Excellence

July 15, 2015

kShould we invest in this new technology ourselves or outsource it to a developer? Should I leave my current job for the one that looks great in the media advertisement? Should we buy the house or rent for another few years? Does waiting to make this decision improve or diminish my chances of a “good” decision?

Decisions can be so weighty. The stress of decisions can be increased when the clock is about to expire. How can we find an easier way to make and live with critical decisions? Try these five tips to facilitate better and faster decision making.

1) Choose clarity over certainty

It is said that our intuitive mind processes at exponentially greater speeds than our analytical mind. While difficult to believe, there are many times we have figured out what decision to make before we do a pro and con list about the decision. However, many people simply trust facts and numbers more than gut instincts. In Pat Lencioni’s The Five Temptations of a CEO, he reminds us of the competition between clarity and certainty. When we are clear, we don’t need more proof of a direction – we can proceed. Asking myself if I will care about this decision five or ten years from now can also bring clarity.

2) Forget about failure (at least for a moment)

Fear of failure can paralyze us from making sound decisions. Try reframing what you are thinking about failure related to a given decision. If life is simply a series of experiments, we could take more chances, “fail” more often, and progress farther and faster due to not being stuck in indecision. Allowing ourselves to “course correct” toward our goals is a gentler way of looking at the impact of our decisions vs. a pass/fail model.

3) Assign probabilities

Studies indicate that many of our worries never actualize. An executive coaching client recently shared this thought on worry: “Worry is nothing more than negative forecasting.” My former CFO once stated that we should take risks when the odds are in our favor (and this was before The Hunger Games!). What data supports that a risk is worth taking? What’s the worst (or best!) that could happen? How realistic are my expectations about the impact of my decision?

When we assign a probability and validate the likelihood of something occurring as a result of our decisions, we can more adequately size up the impact of those decisions.

4) Phone a friend

Two heads truly can be better than one. It is presumptuous to think that I can see things from all angles. I have biases that taint objective reality. By calling on someone else to help me think through my decision, I stand a better chance of making a decision that considers all possibilities. It also mitigates fear of failure. It’s true that friends will have biases as well. I’ll take my chances, however, on a broader field of vision via multiple inputs to increase my competence in decision making.

5) Break it down into steps

Some decisions seem so large in our minds that we simply defer, avoid, or punt. We determine that the implications are so substantial that we don’t want to face them. Taking smaller steps in a direction that we want to go can be an alternative way to make large decisions more “bite sized”. What is one step I can take now that moves me forward? What steps could I take that allow me the ability to still keep options open? Where can I foresee future points of measurement that validate the smaller decisions that I am making?

The decision-making process can be intimidating if we allow it to be so. Try these five steps to see if your next decision is that much easier and more sound.

Evan Roth is a Certified Executive Coach and Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner. He enjoys helping leaders thrive in the corporate world. You can find him at

Evan Roth, Principal and Executive Coach, Roth Consultancy International

Evan Roth, Principal and Executive Coach, Roth Consultancy International

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