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Stronger decisions = stronger leaders

Dr. Christi Hegstad is a Certified Executive Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc.

Imagine you have a bright, talented employee who has all but checked out: He does the bare minimum, contributes little in meetings and displays a sour attitude. He’s not officially doing anything wrong but, as a leader, you know his behavior negatively impacts your culture.

He also happens to be the best at his technical skill.

What do you do? How do you decide?

If you’re like many, you might weigh pros and cons, seek group consensus, or research all possible solutions, become overwhelmed, and end up doing nothing.

All common. None optimal.

Decisive - bookIn their latest book, Decisive: How To Make Better Choices In Life And Work, Chip and Dan Heath strive to help us make stronger decisions more consistently. Through extensive research and case studies, they entertainingly teach us “four villains” standing in our way of effective decision-making and provide a new “WRAP” model – Widen your options, Reality-test your assumptions, Attain distance before deciding, and Prepare to be wrong – to improve. While perhaps not suited for split-second decisions such as those an ER doctor or firefighter might make, the strategies provided in Decisive can support leaders in continuously improving and staying consistent – an important but often overlooked component of positive leadership.

Three key takeaways from Decisive that can help your decision-making immediately include:

1. Honor your core priorities. You must have a clear understanding of your vision, values, and priorities in order to make strong decisions. Your calendar and bank statement typically serve as your most accurate scoreboard: Where you place your time and money reflects what matters most to you.

Decisive reiterates Jim Collins’ advice to create a stop-doing list. Imagine receiving a phone call that you’ve inherited $20 million, no strings. Moments later, you learn that you have only ten years left to live. What would you do differently and, just as important, what would you stop doing? Reflecting on this scenario can help you clarify your priorities.

2. Consider the opposite. “If you haven’t encountered any opposition to a decision you’re considering,” the Heaths assert, “chances are you haven’t looked hard enough.” Assign someone the role of devil’s advocate, or honestly ask, “What if our least favorite option were actually the best one? What data might convince us of that?” We often confuse research with simply fishing for support; considering an opposing possibility heightens our effectiveness.  

3. Set tripwires, or signals that boost you out of autopilot. For example, Zappos offers new employees $2,000 to quit if they realize the company isn’t a good fit. This may seem pricey but, compared to the cost of a disengaged employee, it’s a bargain. The monetary offer removes any nagging uncertainties (“Is this job right for me?”) and guides employees into a clear decision-making opportunity. Tripwires protect against the dangerous “We’ve Always Done It This Way” syndrome, too.

Your Turn: What decision are you currently mulling over? Make a hypothetical choice, then apply the three above tips: Lay out your core priorities to determine if your choice supports them. Look for opposition and see if you’re truly convinced. Finally, create a few tripwires that will signal if a different or modified decision needs to be made.

“Being decisive itself is a choice,” the Heaths remind us. “Decisiveness is a way of behaving, not an inherited trait. It allows us to make brave and confident choices, not because we know we’ll be right but because it’s better to try and fail than to delay and regret.”

What helps you make strong decisions? What other decision-making books have you enjoyed? Share your comments below!

Dr. Christi Hegstad, Certified Executive Coach and President of MAP Professional Development Inc. Find more book reviews & coaching tips on Facebook and Twitter.

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Comments

What helps me make stronger decisions is to ensure that they align to my core values as discussed in item #1. When I stay true to my values, I rarely make a wrong decision! I am also getting better about checking in with my body. Am I feeling a sense of excitement or dread as I consider alternatives? What is my head saying, versus my gut?

Excellent strategies, Tabby! Knowing your values - whether as an individual or as a business (ideally both) - is paramount to strong decision-making. Sounds like you've got that down!

Your head/gut comment makes me think you might also like their book Switch: How To Change When Change Is Hard. They speak to that connection quite a bit in there, comparing it to a rider on an elephant.

Thank you for your feedback!

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