Ten-year CEO studies conducted by a team of psychologists, economists, statisticians, and data scientists don’t come along every day (but still more offers for a 0 percent APR credit card do–the injustice of it all).
Anyway, when such studies are reported, take notice–I did, and here’s what I discovered.
It turns out that being decisive is more important than you ever imagined for unlocking peak performance.
The team behind the aforementioned ground-breaking study made this important distinction, however, as detailed in this Harvard Business Review:
We discovered high-performing CEO’s do not stand out for making great decisions all the time; rather, they stand out for being more decisive. They make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction. They do so consistently, even amid ambiguity, with incomplete information, and in unfamiliar domains.
This makes sense, especially when you consider how indecision paralyzes an organization. It creates doubt, uncertainty, lack of focus, and even resentment.
Don’t be that guy/girl. Here’s how to be more decisive.
1. Meter your emotions.
Emotions can get in the way of making a decision, causing us to gloss over facts right in front of us or creating a desperate search for information to support the decision we really want to make.
Countering indecision requires accepting inevitabilities much sooner while refusing to let emotions cloud the realities at hand.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with letting your heart (or gut) be the tiebreaker in making your decision; it’s just critical that the head, heart, and gut all serve the process in a balanced, efficient fashion.
2. Step back and evaluate the true impact of a wrong decision.
Fear of making an incorrect decision can paralyze us. At such times, it’s helpful to step back and ask, “What’s the worst thing that could happen in the long run if this decision turns out to be wrong?” Odds are, consequences aren’t that dire after all.
More often than not, you make decisions, decisions don’t make you.
And getting comfortable with the possibility of being wrong can actually help the right decisions happen faster.
3. Consider the risks/costs of not doing something.
No decision might mean budgets run over, competitors move first and end up eating your lunch (while the indecisive manager is still deciding whether to use a fork or a spoon), or that resources get further stretched to work multiple options and kept from working on some other priority (further sapping the organization’s energy).
Being aware on this front will make you think twice before deciding not to decide.
4. Act with self-assurance.
Self-doubt or worrying about what others expect you to decide can cripple a decision in progress.
Self-confidence helps bolster the internal fortitude to make the tough calls, as well as the external reception of the decision once made. Ever watch someone visibly riddled with self-doubt arrive at a decision? Most of the time these are the decisions that won’t stick.
5. Rediscover the plot.
Sometimes just stepping back and getting some distance from a problem and refreshing yourself on the objective or relative importance of a pending decision can be tremendously helpful.
Revisiting the objective can quickly illuminate the path forward, or what seemed like a huge call to be made might reorient itself and shrink vastly in size.
6. Don’t vacillate in a vacuum; step back and seek advice.
Indecision can arise from the constant rehashing of the same set of data, input, or experiences. So get exposure to new perspective from other stakeholders or from someone not as close to the decision.
7. Set time-bound parameters for making the call.
It’s only natural for us to take as much time as we can to decide something.
Concrete, time-bound parameters (with some teeth to them) can force the perfectionist or the want-it-all to let go a bit, thus enabling a much-needed decision.
8. Sharp discussions net sharp decisions.
We’ve all been in meetings where a decision is supposed to be made, but instead, you’re left with no sense of tangible forward progress.
The discussion seems circular, someone hijacks the meeting and launches into an unfocused or politically motivated soliloquy, or everyone and anyone jump in with points that aren’t even fully on topic.
These free-for-alls distract the decider and throw the decision-making process off course.
As a deciding manager, you need to be prepared to run a disciplined and pointed meeting that drives toward a decision by asking the right questions, controlling the discussion flow, reining others in when necessary, and expanding discussion where appropriate to get all the information, options, and points of view out on the table.