How do you make your decisions?

I find it intriguing how we make decisions.

I know of people who struggle to decide between seemingly simple choices like what to have for dinner and others who make life-changing choices with little hesitation. Of course I’m giving you no context here, you don’t know the people I’m talking about, their personalities, history or experience of making decisions to-date.

Within the work context the ease and confidence with which we make decisions does have an effect on those we interact with.  Managers who are confident decision makers demonstrate that they are good leaders, that others should trust and follow them and that they will be safe if they do so. Hand-wringing and agonising over choices fills no-one with confidence (if you need to do this, do it in the company of a few trusted colleagues!).


Some under-used tools

There are several tools that can help you become more objective when making choices, here are just four in very brief outline. Let’s say you need to decide how your team can generate (more) income for the organisation, you’ve come up with lots of ideas but don’t know which idea or choice to go with;

  1. Very simply make a list of pros and cons for each potential choice. Even if you have a personal preference, keep to the facts for the purpose of the activity.
  2. Carry out a PEST* analysis for your potential idea or choice. This is a really effective way of understanding the external influences that impact on your idea.  (*PEST stands for Political, Economic, Social and Technological).Word Cloud - Decision Making.eps
  1. Carry out a SWOT* analysis for your potential idea or choice. This analysis works well when you’re thinking of both internal and external things that might affect your choice.  (*SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
  1. For each of the ideas in turn imagine that it was now up and running (I call this my ‘imagine as if’ activity). What would it be like, what would be happening, how would it feel etc.

Don’t do any of these in isolation; involve your team in as many steps as possible, you’ll get a richer outcome and you are building in support for your final decisions earlier by involving them.


Decision making in life

Coming across this TED talk by Ruth Chang was very timely. She talks about how we view choices in our lives and what makes them difficult to choose between. Do listen to it later if you don’t have time now. It demystifies a challenging subject.


Now over to you

How do you feel about making choices? Do you find it difficult because your choice will impact on others or do you do it with ease? Many, many people struggle with this topic so by throwing your wisdom into the comments pot below I know you will be helping others.

2 thoughts on “How do you make your decisions?

  • I use SWOT; a mix of internal (SW) and external (OT) factors or PESTLE (or PESTEL), the last two letters being ‘Legal’ and ‘Environment’ for taking into account the external environment

    Where costs are involved a cost vs benefit analysis is useful

    For simpler decisions a pros and cons list is useful.However if the decision is a simple one, where two options seem just as beneficial I sometimes toss a coin!

    • This is good to know. Recently, with three different groups of managers I’ve found a reluctance to use these (PEST and SWOT) simple, yet effective tools. We all soon realised it was a lack of exposure and experience of them, nothing more. The more we apply them the more familiar they become and so our confidence to use them increases. But I am genuinely interested in how we make our choices and so the TED talk I mentioned in the post was a great find. If you haven’t listened to it Robert, you must.

      But tell me, if you do toss a coin to help you decide, do you always follow through or do you change your mind?!

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