“Peanuts or pretzels,” says the flight attendant. The flight is short, so you have to decide in a split second, or he will go on to the next passenger. What to dress in the morning, what kind of food to eat, what to watch on TV. Every moment of every day is filled with moments that call for a decision. Even more so when you are a leader. Vision and goalsetting require that we make decisions, with one complicating factor; while an individual person’s decision only impacts their life, a leader’s decision almost always has consequences for many people involved – subordinates, peers, clients, church members, vendors, and more.
So, based on what some “leadership gurus” had to say, and some thinking of my own, here is a list of seven practices that I believe can be helpful to accelerate and improve our process of making decisions.
Share [some] decisions, a.k.a., delegate. One of the most important decisions we make as leaders is to choose which ones are ours to make and which ones should be delegated. That one decision will save time to focus on important stuff.
Automate routine, smaller decisions. Steve Jobs was famous for wearing the same look all the time: jeans and a black turtleneck. For him, what to wear was one less decision to make. OK, that may be too much, but you get the point. Here is a good question to ask: What daily routine decisions can I automate?
Learn to live with uncertainty. If we are going to wait for absolute certainty, we may delay, even paralyze the decision-making process. Uncertainty is a reality of visionary leadership, especially for Biblical leaders, where faith is a key element.
Use data, not guesses or emotions. Data-driven decisions don’t eliminate uncertainty, but they can reduce it. It also removes at least part of the emotion from the decision-making process. It may take a little extra time researching to be able to make informed decisions, but it will pay off later.
Reduce the number of alternatives. Have you tried shopping for breakfast cereal in the US, or olive oil in Spain? Too many choices slow down the decision process. If you can reduce them to a minimum, it will make the process easier.
Keep your non-negotiables front and center. What are your core values? They should always be front and center during the whole process, and should never be compromised.
Act Quickly. Decision-making is time-consuming. It takes time to collect relevant data, a lot of conversations to reduce alternatives, and a lot of prayer to ensure we are deciding according to our biblical values. But, once the decision was made, it is time to get moving.
No Decision is the Worst Decision
Spending one hour at the breakfast cereal aisle or missing my beverage on the plane may be of very little consequence. On the other hand, failing to make a decision – even a bad one, can do serious damage to our leadership and vision. No decision is always the worst decision. These seven practices are not rocket science, but they can help our leadership soar.