How to Make Great Decisions in Only Six Chapters

AdVance Leadership » How to Make Great Decisions in Only Six Chapters

Welcome to Friday 411, issue #058. In 4 minutes, with 1 insight and 1 action, you’ll learn a step-by-step process for making better decisions.

1 Insight

The quality of your decisions affects the quality of your leadership. You can make better decisions by involving your team in a proven process.

The average person makes around 35,000 decisions per day. As a leader, you make more decisions than that. Adding to the pressure, your choices are more impactful than other people’s. The consequences of your decisions affect you, every person on your team, your customers, and stakeholders.

When making decisions, leaders frequently make two mistakes:

  1. They don’t have a process for making decisions.
  2. They don’t involve their teams in making key decisions.

Decisions made from poor processes and without  team involvement lead to:

  • Poor choices
  • Wasted energy from your team
  • Disengaged employees
  • Frustrated customers

Like a book, decisions unfold in chapters. At AdVance Leadership, we’ve discovered that it takes six chapters to make good decisions.

Chapter 1: Define the Challenge

Charles Kettering, head of research at General Motors from 1920-1947 said, “A problem well stated is half solved.” Every time you need to make a decision, it’s because you’ve experienced a challenge.

The better you understand and explain that challenge, the easier it is to start the decision-making process.

Chapter 2: Describe what “winning” the challenge means

You need to know what a “good decision” would look like.

  • How will you know if you’ve conquered this challenge?
  • Are there particular criteria that are important in making this decision?
  • Do you have limitations that affect this decision?
  • Who is involved in making this decision?

Chapter 3: Brainstorm the options

Most leaders are action oriented. It’s easy to jump straight from the challenge to the solution. This tendency toward fast action can lead to hasty and harmful choices.

Before you determine the actions, brainstorm possibilities. Brainstorming is a problem-solving technique that generates a large quantity of ideas through open discussion with a group. The goal of brainstorming is to generate a lot of ideas without judging the quality of them.

During this stage, absurd ideas should be welcomed. They spark new pathways for thinking about the challenge.

For example, we once led a team that needed to create a new leadership development event for an organization. We wanted to grab people’s attention as soon as it started. One person suggested that the company’s CEO helicopter into the event and rappel out of the chopper. The group knew that there was no chance of this happening. But we didn’t shoot down the idea. Instead, we used an absurd suggestion to generate many other ideas to solve the challenge.

Chapter 4: Narrow down to a few options

In the last chapter, you focused on the quantity of ideas. In this stage, you narrow down the ideas to a few quality ones. Look for ideas that have the highest likelihood of “winning” the challenge.

Chapter 5: Debate and Decide

Engage your team in a hearty debate about the the few remaining ideas. Debate is a scary idea for some people. But you’re debating ideas with the shared purpose of finding the best solutions.

Each person should  express their thoughts on the strengths and weaknesses of each idea. They should simultaneously share their opinions and be open to changing their opinions as they listen to other ideas.

One note here: There is no such thing as the “right” solution. Rather, there is only the best idea that you believe will win the challenge. You’re making a calculated bet that this idea is right. But only time will tell if you are correct. For more on this idea, see one of my favorite books, Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke.

By the end of this chapter, you will have decided what to do about the challenge.

Chapter 6: Plan the Decision

Once you’ve made the decision, convert it into actions and next steps. Determine who does what by when.

A great book unfolds through carefully crafted chapters. Good decision-making follows a similar path. Each completed chapter raises the likelihood of making great choices.

1 Action

Identify 1 decision that you need to make and use this process with your team.


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