Being able to make decisions effectively is essential as we develop our personal leadership. Making decisions is part of our everyday life – sometimes we hesitate and think twice, other times, we spontaneously make the decision. So what is it that makes a difference in our effectiveness when we make decisions?
Since I have studied and practiced being a Thinking Environment® both for others, and myself, I experience on a daily basis, Nancy Kline’s proposition that ‘the quality of everything we do life, depends upon the quality of the thinking we do first’.
Below are 5 tips that I have discovered useful in making decisions effectively:
- Be aware of your natural tendency in making decisions. Are you a hesitator? Are you spontaneous? Being a hesitator is not necessarily a bad thing – it is helpful to reflect and consider the impact of your decision. Being spontaneous can bring variety, fun and new energy into a situation. The key is to be aware of your style and ask yourself whether, on this occasion it is the best way of making this particular decision.
- Notice your internal environment as you make the decision. Are you under time pressure? Do you feel a sense of competition with others? Are you feeling emotional – tired or upset in some way? When you experience these emotions, they can be a distraction for making an effective decision. So, take a break, get some fresh air and sit quietly for a few moments as you consider the decision.
- Get clear on what outcome you are looking for. What information do you need in order to make this decision? Do you need more facts or evidence? How will this decision impact others? What will change for you as result of this decision?
- Know what is important to you – what you stand for. Being clear on your own values and boundaries will help you to make effective decisions. For example, if you have committed to staying well and healthy, you can make good decisions about choosing healthy foods and exercising during your working week.
- Practice – start by making decisions on small things and reflect on how well your decision-making was. What did you learn or relearn for yourself? What might you do differently next time? Consider each decision making experience as a growth point.
And more . . .
A few years ago I studied the work of Susan Scott and in her book ‘Fierce Conversations’ she illustrates a powerful leadership model in helping others grow in confidence in making effective decisions.
The goal of the Decision Tree is threefold:
- To identify clearly which categories decisions and actions fall into so the employee knows exactly where he or she has the authority to make decisions and take action.
- To provide employees with a clear upward path of professional development. Progression is made when decisions are moved from root to trunk to branch to leaf.
- To assist organisations in consciously developing grassroots leadership within their organisations, freeing up executives to take on more challenging responsibilities themselves. A direct outcome of using the Decision Tree is that learning is provoked.
Make the decision. Act on it. Do not report the action you took.
Make the decision. Act on it. Report the action you took daily, weekly or monthly.
Make the decision. Report your decision before you take the action.
Make the decision jointly, with input from many people. These are the decisions that, if poorly made and implemented, could cause major harm to the organisation.
The analogy of root, trunk, branch and leaf decisions indicates the potential harm or good to the organisation as action is taken at each level. A trunk decision is not necessarily more important than a leaf decision. Poor decisions at any level can hurt an organisation but if you unwittingly yank a leaf off a tree, the tree won’t die. A wrong action at the root level, however, can cause tremendous damage.
This is a powerful model letting people know where they are free to play and how they can grow. If you follow this model, members of your team will take on more responsibility and your own to-do list will shrink. In addition the Decision Tree raises the level of personal accountability.
When we work brilliantly and carefully advising others about decisions that impact them, an individual may sit back and respond ‘that’s OK he has come up with a solution or way forward – I am off the hook and I don’t need to be accountable’. This may be a conscious or unconscious reflection for the individual, however it is a costly reaction both for the organisation and the individual.
Trying to build leaders by regularly exposing them to your brilliance guarantees a lack of personal development. You will not have anyone around you to think for themselves, or create solutions outside of your own personal spotlight.
Providing a clear direction with the Decision Tree together with meaningful conversations about what is important to them, their motivations and aspirations, develops leaders by providing frequent opportunities to bring their own brilliance to the fore.
The Thinking Environment® provides an excellent environment to help others think well for themselves. Through demonstrating the 10 components of attention, equality, ease, appreciation, encouragement, feelings, information, diversity, incisive questions and a place that says ‘you matter’, greatly improves the quality of decisions, in fact, it improves the quality of everything we do in life.
If you would like to develop further your effectiveness in decision-making and experience a Thinking Environment with me, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org