June 18, 2024
Business | Northwest Herald


Caldwell: Successful business leaders know how to make decisions

Good decisions are the building blocks of success and help you avoid the “Swag Zone.”

You know, the zone where you make decisions by flipping a coin or throwing a dart and then second guessing the result. Your life thus far is the culmination of every decision you have made or not made.

Messages such as “follow your heart,” “listen to your inner voice” and “trust your gut” sound so easy. Successful business leaders know about their decision-making process and without fail, a typical response is “we kick ideas around and then make a consensus decision.” They have a process, not a reaction, a plan, not a swag.

Your professional and personal decisions not only impact your business, co-workers and family but also display your values and priorities. You also are setting a decision-making framework that others are watching and modeling.

You are making a thousand decisions each day, but are you conscious and confident in your decision-making process? Or are you a coin tosser? Confident decision making is a skill that you can cultivate for yourself and model for your organization.

Here’s the “No Swag Zone” decision-making process:

Understand the real issue and outcome: Be able to state the issue and desired outcome in one sentence or in a short paragraph. Is it a big or small issue, and what is the potential impact of the decision in one day, one month, one year and one decade? I call it “playing down the chess game of life” to anticipate your future moves and options. Analyze if the issue is a people or money decision and if there is an opportunity gain or loss. You will save time and be more effective by understanding the real issue, desired outcomes and the potential consequences.

Balance your intuition and logic: Use your sensory acuity to make decisions. What does your head, heart and gut tell you about your decision? Gather the facts about what you know and don’t know about the situation. Using a balanced approach, avoid being too enthusiastic or pessimistic – instead be cautiously optimistic. Knowing that the ever present “Pain/Pleasure Principle” is pulling you toward gratification and away from discomfort can help calmer heads prevail.

Know thyself: Be aware of your natural decision-making style. Are you more inclined to make quick, impulsive decisions or slow, more methodical decisions? Consider taking the opposite approach and building both muscles. If you are more comfortable making decisions on your own, involve your team. You will be surprised about the new ideas and points of view that will be generated. They will appreciate being asked and involved in the process. Remember the axiom that people support an idea they helped create.

Know thy history: Be clear about your personal and organizational decision-making history. Looking back, have you made this type of decision before and what was the outcome? Knowing what you now know, would you make the same decision again? Use the benefit of time and experience to inform your current choices. Determine if this is a reoccurring issue and if this decision will remedy the underlying unresolved issues.

Seek support: No one is an expert in everything. Be humble and know what you don’t know. Ask yourself, “Who can I call that has been in a similar situation, and can they advise me?” If the final decision is your responsibility, avoid being a people pleaser and make the tough decisions yourself. The time for building support and implementing your decision will come later.

Make the decision: In the final analysis, do you really need to make a decision right now? Can you buy some time, make a temporary decision and think about it overnight? If you must make the decision because of a looming deadline, narrow the possible decisions down to three options. One decision is too limiting, two becomes a dilemma and three give you choices. Make a Ben Franklin list of pros and cons and rank them in order of importance or feasibility. Be sure to have a backup contingency plan and determine when, why and how you will execute it.

Once you have made the decision, don’t suffer over it. I know of many successful, confident people who are decisive professionally, but suffer over less complex personal decisions. This causes unhealthy stress and unnecessary pressure. Make the decision and move onto the next one.

You can avoid the Swag Zone and make better decisions by understanding the real issue and desired outcome, balancing your intuition and logic and using the benefit of time and experience to inform your current choices. Utilize these strategies and you can build an enduring and successful organization and create a legacy of success to be proud of.

• Kathleen Caldwell is president of Caldwell Consulting Group and the founder of the WHEE Institute (Wealthy, Healthy, Energetic Edge) of Woodstock. Reach her at www.caldwellconsulting.biz, kathleen@caldwellconsulting.biz or 815-206-4014.