How to make better decisions at work?

Decision-making is a soft skill many of us lack or have not mastered fully. Each employee at work has to make a decision on a regular basis, from the entry level clerk to the senior vice president – even Dilbert’s lazy Wally character had to be decisive from time to time, such as what tactic to employ to escape an assignment or how much coffee to drink in a single working day.

Understanding how to make a good decision could be the secret to doing the job, improving your career or getting your boss’ nod of approval. Unfortunately, being a better decision-maker is much easier said than done for so many busy professionals, but there are steps you can take today to be more effective, improve your leadership, and have a strong head for business.

Here are eight ways you can be a better decision maker at the office or for your career.

1. Have a clear goal.

One of the most successful techniques for decision-making is to keep an eye on your goal. That simply means defining your decision ‘s intent by asking yourself what exactly is the issue that needs to be resolved? So why do they need to solve this problem? What represents a successful outcome?

Figuring out what’s most important to you will help you make good decisions. When you know the reason why you have making a particular decision; it will better serve you in staying with it, and defending it.

2. Eliminate Your Bias
Let’s be honest: in our personal lives or in our professional endeavours, everyone has a bias. Yet the amount and form of bias in the workplace will produce a ripple effect that can then damage the company or influence the subordinates. In general there are four types of biases that could influence your decisions:

  • confirmation bias – executing an option that supports our presumptions
  • status-quo bias – taking a business-as-usual approach that keeps everything the same
  • action bias – moving ahead with action because you’re perturbed by inaction
  • self-serving bias – applying a preference that only benefits you, not the company.

Ultimately, you will need to either eliminate or minimise these biases. So, the key question is: how would you rate the quality of your decision-making?

3. Cultivate a “Trust but Verify” Relationship With Data
While we are all talking about data-driven decisions, we have to be careful to anchor only on the data that supports our position and ignore other data or draw imperfect inferences from the limited data before us. And of course you should always doubt the consistency and reliability of the results.

Resist simply drawing on the data in front of you and ask: “What data do I/we need to make this decision?” Search for data that sheds light on the issue, regardless of whether it supports or refutes a direction. Ask for help to evaluate the completeness and objectivity of the data, and encourage others to challenge your inferences to minimize the chances of you selectively interpreting the information.

4. Think about the Tough Decisions
You’ve always heard of the expression ‘you sleep better on it.’ Well, this applies to a wide range of circumstances, from taking that stance with another firm to imposing a new system to streamline operations. You help your brain to process all the information and to do some critical thinking by having a good night’s rest.
It is true that there will be times when you need to make a crucial decision at that very moment.

However, a lot of your day-to-day activities at the workplace or life-changing career options can be accomplished by taking the necessary time to think about it. But there is one thing you should be aware of: overthinking can stress you out and can really make you indecisive. So, you need to weigh the pros and cons, but you must find a balance between not mulling over the decision long enough and taking too long to be decisive. Everyone will eventually develop their own system.

5. Consider the Other Side
In today’s world , people are stubborn, and when they are about to come to a decision they refuse to consider the other side. Given all of our colleagues’ obstacles, feedback from management and consumer recommendations, many of us embrace the idea of ‘my way or the highway,’ and this creates a toxic workplace atmosphere as employees feel neglected.

This also extends to a diverse panoply of everyday instances, too. For example, you might believe that you’re socially awkward at business functions, so you rarely head out to these events. Or you may think that you’re a terrible communicator, so you avoid applying for that promotion. Simply put: by examining all possibilities, you naturally become a better decision maker.

6. Learn From Prior Decisions and Keep Improving
Approach strengthening your decision-making capabilities like you would your fitness program by evaluating progress and outcomes and adjusting your future behaviors accordingly.

Keep a personal decision-journal in addition to the group journal suggested above. Make it a practice to regularly return to this journal and compare outcomes versus expectations. If they differ materially, re-examine your assumptions. Look for flaws in your thinking or problems with data. Take the time to reflect on lessons learned. Jot down how you will improve the process the next time you face a similar decision.

7. Teach Your Team to Make Better Decisions
We live and work in a world of tasks and teams, and successful managers spend time to help their teams learn how to efficiently handle the difficult decision-related problems they face.

All of the lessons above apply to groups. Teach your teams how to use multiple frames, how to assess data needs, and how to evaluate data integrity. Teach them to avoid the traps by involving objective outsiders and require them to log decisions and expectations. If the team will exist for more than the duration of an individual project, hold the team accountable for assessing and measurably strengthening decision-making effectiveness over time.

8. Make Your Decision
Now that you’ve established your target, gathered all the details you need and evaluated the consequences, it’s time to make a decision and actually implement your final choice. Understanding that this step can cause a lot of anxiety to some people is important, because you have to trust your instincts here.

Although you may still be slightly indecisive about your final decision, you have to take into account how this makes you feel. Ask yourself, does it feel right? And does this decision work best for you now, and in the future? When you answer those questions back, you should feel good about the result. The worst thing to do is nothing or kicking the can down the road.

It’s true that being decisive isn’t an easy feature to adopt, but it’s one that we need to begin embracing if we want to get that uplift, get that promotion or advance that career. This will take a long, arduous and exhausting process to become a successful decision-maker.As they say: if it isn’t hard, then it isn’t worth doing. And if you want to attain career success, you will realise that this personal investment will pay dividends down the road.

Check out my related posts:

Do you have the art of thinking clearly?

Do you have the loss aversion bias?

Do you have a growth mindset?

Interesting reads:

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