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Making Tough Decisions

Mar 13, 2020 | 10m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • How to prepare yourself before making a difficult decision
  • Why data, documentation, and measurement will be your best allies
  • Using the concept of “courageous integrity” to make better decisions


Before Making a Tough Decision

If you think that you're the only one hesitant to make major decisions at work, you might be surprised to learn that you're not alone. A lot of c-suite executives have been there too.

For example, in a ten year long longitudinal study of more than 2,700 executives by Harvard Business Review, 57% of newly appointed executives said that making decisions was more complicated and difficult than they expected. And you've probably heard stories of how even the most hardened executives sometimes put off making hard decisions because they're afraid to be the ones to make that decision on behalf of the entire company.

That deep-seated fear actually boils down to human nature. As humans, we're hard-wired to be afraid of facing the consequences of a bad decision that we've made, be it at work, in school, or practically any other setting. Understandably, these perceived negative consequences are amplified in the corporate world because your survival is at stake here. You may end up missing out on that promotion you were eying, getting demoted, or even losing your job just because of a moment's folly, and then what next?

You need to realise that these fears are, for the most part, irrational ones. Organisations are not looking to fire people for bad calls. In fact, I know of one CEO who jokingly shared that if he had fired the person who had caused his company to suffer a huge business loss in the first year, that person wouldn't have been able to go around sharing his retirement stories with others today! Make no mistake, most organisations will support you as long as you have done your homework prior to making that decision and your intentions are clear.

Understand Your Own Personality

Personality plays a huge role in decision-making. An empathetic leader is likely to take their employees’ feelings into account to a greater extent, as compared to a go-getter who is more likely to want to get things done, and fast.

So it is important for you, as a decision-maker, to understand your own personality, as well as the dominant personality traits of those around you to nip potential conflicts in the bud. To test this hypothesis out, ask your team to give established personality tests such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Keirsey Test a try. You'll quickly realise how even the most subtle personality differences can manifest in everyday decision-making. Gaining a better understanding of the personalities of your subordinates will also help you empower them to make decisions when the need arises.

Regardless, you should embrace two key character traits before making any tough decision yourself: courage and integrity. I call the combination of these two traits "courageous integrity". "Courageous" here is simply your confidence in making that particular decision that is derived from your knowledge of the expert domain and the prior data that you've collected, while "integrity" refers to you knowing that you made that particular decision for the betterment of your organisation.

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