Recall that leadership is fundamentally about influencing. But how sustainable is your influence if the outcomes of that influence are bad? A leader who makes poor decision after poor decision will quickly lose credibility and trust.
As an army officer, I spent a lot of time gathering and analyzing information in order to make recommendations to senior leaders. As I progressed in my career, I analyzed more difficult things for more senior commanders. I realized that all the analyses that I did for my various commanders resulted in some kind of decision, and that more senior commanders made more important decisions.
Decision making is a fundamental skill required in order to progress one’s career.
The components required to make a good decision include knowing the right objective to pursue, identifying and understanding the problems/opportunities at hand, knowing the impact of various options available, and making a choice that maximizes desired outcomes while minimizing risk and cost (monetary or human).
So let’s apply the four parts of leadership in order to improve your decision making skills:
Self – Identify and gather the information necessary to make a good decision. It’s not good to make a poor decision on a very important problem/opportunity. A good decision maker is able to understand what are the important problems/opportunities to be tackled, the framework of components that make up the problem, and follow that up with the most important questions that need to be asked when making a decision.
Self – Avoid biases and search for blindspots. Ensure you don’t miss important information that would help you make a better decision. Often times when I was presenting my analyses in my career, my Commander was able to point out an area which I failed to analyze that was actually quite relevant to the decision that she needs to make.
Self – Accept the consequences of your decisions. You made the decision and you must own the consequences of that decision. This helps you earn the trust and respect required to make more decisions in the future.
People – Understand your political arena and what decisions you are able to enforce alone or with help from the right people. Even armed with a good set of reasoning skills and a good set of information, you might fail to make relevant decisions if you are alone or being blocked by others. Making friends and taking into consideration the perspectives of others goes a long way.
Think about the impact of your decision and how it’ll affect others both near and far from where you stand.
Situations – Understand what is feasible. This requires you to understand where your organization needs to go and where it is right now. Don’t spend too much time dwelling on what ifs – people cannot make a decision to do something that is next to impossible to do well.
Outcomes – Relate everything to the most important objectives at hand. This one’s simple: it’s no use making a good decision over an irrelevant problem/opportunity. Make sure you understand what is and isn’t important for your organization at large before even starting to make decisions.
Developing decision making skills is so crucial for leadership but is often neglected in favour of developing more technical and quantifiable skills. Don’t let your glass ceiling be your own inability to make good decisions quickly and effectively.