How to Make Better Decisions as a Leader

July 28th, 2020 |

To improve as a leader, you have to be able to make better decisions, often tough ones, often juggling many at once and often under pressure. Great leaders make decisions based on conscious motives. 

There are a lot of models out there about how to make better decisions, but all decision making relies on  discovering the motives behind your decisions to consciously and logically look at the drivers behind your decision. This all starts with looking at some of the following questions to look at motive vs conscious decisions.

Am I seeking reward or validation?

Detaching yourself from reward or validation in order to really make objective decisions, we have to make decisions that aren’t popular, but are for the greater good of the business.

Motive Based Decision:  “I don’t really agree with that new policy, but since it came from the Managing Director, I should just roll it out because he will be happier if I don’t question it.”

Conscious Decision: “I don’t think that policy will work from my experience with the team, I am going to feed that back to the MD, and ask if we can sit down and discuss a different solution.”

Am I distorting reality to force the story I want to be true?

Often we subconsciously delete, distort or generalise information to make things “fit” our ideal. The key with this is to keep firmly in the facts of the situation and not allow yourself to get caught up in storytelling. 

Motive Based Decision: “I can’t believe that that person did that, they must think I’m stupid, I have been wanting to get rid of them so that just proves I am right in that.”

Conscious Decision: “I haven’t actually sat down and discussed how I see things with this team member and what I need to see from them from an improvement standpoint, I should do that and then see if there is a way to move forward.”

Am I looking for something that justifies what I want to do, but doesn’t address skims over any concerns?

This is where the emotion often kicks in and we can make rash, emotional decisions – pay attention to any concerns and map them through logically. 

Motive Based Decision: “We have too much work, I need to hire someone now, that person I met this morning seems OK, we can probably train them, just get them in.”

Conscious Decision: “I am not sure this is the right person, let’s continue to talk to more people and in the interim look at how we may be able to re-distribute the work we have, or adjust our schedule of work to make it more manageable, let’s get the team together and look at this.”

Am I counting on things outside of my control and running after a fantasy?

There are times for risk, and sometimes you will make decisions based on things outside of your control, but you need to be fully aware of that and put in place safeguards around it. It’s important to keep your eyes open and have a plan in place for the elements you can impact. 

Motive Based Decision: “This office is amazing, let’s get it, I know it’s a lot bigger than we need, but we will be growing so will grow into it.”

Conscious Decision: “What extra work would it take for us to justify the extra cost, how many additional heads could we fit in – realistically what are our timescales for an office like this?”

Know yourself

Depending on your dominant behavioural patterns, you will typically fall into one of two camps when it comes to speed of decision making: some wait too long, others jump too soon, equally when it comes to your process – some like to gather feedback from others first, others just make the decision independently. 

The key is to be aware of your dominant style and stay conscious in how it impacts each decision. The above four questions are useful to use as a reference point to cross check your decision making – it isn’t to say that if you answer yes that you wouldn’t proceed, but any “yes” answers will just require some extra consideration to make sure you are making conscious, instead of motive, based decisions. 

If you’re looking to further develop your leadership skills, we designed a free 6 week leadership programme during the COVID-19 pandemic to support businesses through uncertainty, but is relevant for leaders of any level, at any time, with key management principles that can be used at any time.