How to avoid common decision-making pitfalls

Decision-making is a leader’s key responsibility and core competency. But how you make them is just as vital as the actual decision made. Sam Reese, CEO of Vistage Worldwide, reveals how you can get it right

How to avoid common decision-making pitfalls

A leader’s ability to make decisions dictates whether or not their business will be a success or a failure. High-performing CEOs and managing directors are grounded in their mission, vision and purpose. They develop and adopt a conscious decision-making process that feels authentic to them and then apply it with rigor. Once they do, decision-making will feel less like starting from scratch and more like acting with confidence, speed and accuracy.

Here are some of the decision-making insights I’ve gained as a CEO.

Decision-making is a marathon

Decision-making isn’t a sprint. Leaders need time and quiet to process without interruption to work through big decisions. Designating time every day to focus on decision-making is a great practice. Poor decisions often come about because a leader may feel pressure to act quickly. They stress over whether they appear strong or weak rather than focusing on the task itself. Few leaders will regret taking extra time to make important decisions.

Decisions aren’t always binary

There isn’t always a right or wrong answer to every problem. Thinking this way can cause pressure and lead to indecision as well as limiting the leadership’s creativity. In reality, there are usually multiple right solutions and multiple wrong ones. The best decisions are ones you’ve come up with by investing enough time, energy and commitment to make the right choice of how to move foreward.

Be transparent

Sound decision-making demands integrity. Leaders should have only one version of the truth. That way teams know where they stand and what is demanded of them for success. That integrity also drives accountability and makes decision-making easier. Teams are more likely to stand behind a leader’s decisions if the leader demonstrates integrity and openness in decision-making.

Own up to mistakes

When wrong decisions are made, put ego aside and do what’s best for the organisation. Some leaders tend to stick with poor decisions or compound them with more bad choices. They worry their teams will see them as ineffectual and then neglect to make the correction. It’s better to fix the error and right the course than to continue down the wrong path for the sake of preserving reputation.

Learn from your mistakes

It’s a waste of time for leaders to look back with hindsight and be overly critical about done decisions. It’s far more useful to look back at what information was available at that time and then figure out if and where things went wrong.

Invite outside perspectives

Part of making decisions with integrity is respecting others’ perspectives and truly listening rather than seeking confirmation or validation, which often leads to myopia. When making decisions, openness to feedback and unorthodox ways of thinking serve leaders well. But good leaders also don’t lock immediately into commitment to a suggestion. Instead, they take input, evaluate it and then decide.

Sound decision-making requires a good process. My process is built upon three core principles. Firstly, I pay attention to my instincts. Secondly, I exercise judgment using my experience and data to come to conclusions. Thirdly, I allow peer and team perspectives to inform but not dictate my decisions.

The end game

Leaders will mature in their decision-making ability as they journey from being a first-time managing director to a seasoned managing director. The end game is a conscious, refined and structured framework for making decisions and a leader who can make wise decisions better and faster.

This article comes courtesy of Sam Reese, CEO of Vistage Worldwide., an organisation designed exclusively for high-integrity CEOs, managing directors and executive leaders who are looking to drive better decisions and better results for their companies.


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