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Get out of the chair. Go down the stairs. Take a picture of the sunset. … This decision literally took less than a second. As I was sitting on the veranda overlooking the beach/ocean, I noticed the sunset was spectacular. I grabbed my camera, excused myself for a few minutes, walked 15 seconds down to the water and took some pictures. Beautiful colors. Nice memories. Easy decision. … After a few minutes, I walked back up and rejoined my friends in conversation.
Some decisions are easy. In fact, many are made with little or no thought. “Coffee or tea? … Milk or sugar? … Vanilla or chocolate? … Blue jeans or shorts? … TV or reading?”
Some decisions require more time and are a bit more difficult. “Bali or Hong Kong for the weekend? … Lease or buy? … What to wear to the prom? … What type of TV?”
Still other decisions require even more time and may prove more difficult. “Whom do I marry? … Is he the one? Is she? … Where do I want to go to school (university)? … What do I want to be/do when I grow up? … How many kids? When?”
We make thousands of decisions each day. Some are made without our thinking (so maybe they don’t really count as decisions). Some are made after minutes of debate. Others may require hours, days, weeks, months or years.
What time will I get up? What will I wear? Is it time to replace my toothbrush? How much longer will my toothpaste last? Do I need to schedule a meeting? Whom do I invite? When do I schedule the meeting? How long should it last? Do I need a conference with the kids’ teachers? Am I ok if they play a sport and are a club at the same time? Will I pay for their medical insurance while they’re looking for a job after college? Will I say anything about the boy they’re dating whom I don’t like? Will I ask my boss for a transfer? Do I tell the CEO I’m receiving different direction from the CFO and the COO?” … The list could go on indefinitely.
This short article is NOT an exhaustive primer on decision-making. It is a reminder. A reminder to be aware of the decisions you’re making. And a reminder to spend the appropriate amount of time on each, as dictated by the consequences of the decision. Don’t spend 30 minutes deciding what color socks to wear to work. Don’t spend 3 days deciding whom you’re going to marry.
Also, recognize that personality type plays a role. Some people process information more slowly. This is ok (though it kinda drives me crazy since I process quickly). Be aware of your preferences. Get the right information. Think about the consequences (potential pros/cons & stakeholders). And make the decision. Make decisions that are consistent with your personal and organizational values.
Being a world-class leader requires understanding, self-knowledge. You must understand how you, as an individual, process information and make decisions. It requires consistency and communicating your decisions to others. It requires spending an appropriate amount of time on each decision. Some will require seconds, others perhaps months (or years). Consider the consequences, the potential impact of the decision on key stakeholders, the information needed, your values, those of the organization, the cost, the benefit – and make the decision.
One final bit of advice, once you’ve spent the appropriate amount of time making the decision, don’t second-guess yourself. The naysayers (the “peanut-gallery” if you will) may second-guess you. It comes with being a leader. … Study the issue. Make the best decision you can. Do it in an appropriate amount of time. Move on. You may have to adjust down the road based on new information or constraints. You may have made a less-than-optimal decision. But don’t look back. Move forward. Seek to improve (always) but don’t let the potential criticism of others hold you back or break your confidence.
Are you aware of how you make decisions? Could you describe it to someone? Write it down? Are you consistent?
As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.
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