Decision Making For Dummies
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Today, the lines between private and public life and between work and personal time are blurred, and it’s easy to lose touch with what is important to you and to what you want from life. Beliefs you’re unaware of also get in the way of your changing course, even when you want to.

They can also prevent you from recognizing changes that are going on around you, putting you and your company in a vulnerable position.

To counter these forces so that you can become the manager and leader you want to be and so that you can effectively manage in diverse environments, decision-making today demands that you expand your self-awareness and become more flexible in your thinking.

Knowing thyself

All the tools and techniques in the world don’t make you a better decision-maker or communicator. To become a better decision-maker, you must know yourself. Consider that you play the most important role in effective decision-making for these simple reasons:

  • You take yourself with you wherever you go. In other words, whether you make a decision through a knee-jerk reaction (who hasn’t?) or take a more deliberate approach, the information you receive is interpreted through filters that you use to make sense of reality. You must know what those filters are because you can’t get away from yourself when you’re making decisions.

    This is why knowing yourself — being aware of your triggers, your beliefs (both conscious and unconscious), your assumptions, your preferences, and so on — is so important to your being able to make effective decisions.

  • Your communication skills and style dictate how effective you are in your interaction and relationships with your colleagues or subordinates.

Avoiding temptations that obstruct sound decisions

Company performance and achievement of goals get traded off when key decision-makers — often in executive, management, or supervisory roles — give into one or more temptations, such as the following:

  • Putting career aspirations ahead of the company’s success: When you succumb to this temptation, your priority is to protect your career status or reputation. Examples include taking credit for someone else’s idea or failing to recognize another’s contribution.

    Although people who engage in this behavior say that this is just how business gets done, it’s unethical, and the consequence is that lousy decisions get made. Turf wars result, and any attempts to improve the situation result in defensiveness. The opportunity you have is to help others succeed, which helps you succeed as well. If the company culture doesn’t reward achievement of goals, a leadership and cultural overhaul may be in order.

  • Insisting on absolutely correct decisions in order to achieve certainty: When management yields to this temptation, there is no tolerance for error, especially human error. The result? Employees feel set up for failure. There is never enough information to finally decide (100 percent certainty is an unattainable goal), and confusing directions to employees combined with the desire to make the right decision can result in procrastination and delay.

    Ultimately, companies that succumb to this temptation lose out to more agile and flexible companies. The cure for this temptation is to trust in yourself and your team to creatively achieve results, which involves learning from mistakes.

  • Letting the desire for peace and harmony in the workplace result in avoiding conflict and being uncomfortable with delivering unexpected news: The problems?

    First, the harmony you’re so intent on preserving is fake. Relationships seem friendly on the surface, but people will release their frustrations in nonproductive ways, like backstabbing around the water cooler. Second, this environment is conducive to poor decision-making simply because good decisions need diverse views and perspectives to be out in the open for discussion. When no one wants to talk about the big issues, decision-making is severely compromised.

    To cure this temptation, flip the perspective on conflict. Don’t see it as bad; see it simply as a way to look at things from a different perspective. Allow your decision-making conversations to air diverse perspectives on the issue, and have a zero-tolerance policy for personal attacks or the belittling of others’ ideas — behaviors that are distracting and destructive when you want to gain value from the different thinking in the room.

    Courage is needed to grow as a decision-maker.

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Dawna Jones generates imaginative insights and applies 25 years experience in helping businesses and organizations make bold decisions. She co-designs the future of organizations, transforming them from "business-as-usual" to inclusive cultures of prosperity.

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