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Decision Making

Do you ever get hung up, worrying about the consequences of making the right or wrong decision? Research shows that most of us see issues in terms of black and white. Capable managers are able to formulate their answers quickly and make most business decisions without undue delay. However, what about the rest of us?

A survey by McKinsey & Company found that 60 percent of executives make bad decisions as frequently as good ones. So, if you want to join the elite groups of decision makers, you need to develop your own style for decision making—which means discovering what you “need” in order to feel confident in your decision-making process. Most of the time excellent decisions can be made with readily available information.

What do most of us need? Well…it ranges from “plenty of time” to having the issues relating to decisions reduced to their simplest form. Individuals who need plenty of time for business-related decisions won’t make snap judgments, so knowing this, don’t ask them to. In the middle, we have those individuals most comfortable when considering business decisions that involve a minimum of ambiguity. They like problems with clear-cut solutions. Our third type of decision-making manager likes issues reduced to their simplest form, so they can make quick, confident, decisions.

All three types of decision makers have their advantages and disadvantages in the business arena. All types can get caught up in their own style and exhibit tunnel vision with regard to making good decisions versus keeping in mind their company’s big picture, weighing what’s best for the entire corporation.

Another way to look at the decision-making process is how it is handled by the culture of individual companies. Generally, new managers are put into positions where the majority of their decision making is for situations that are pretty black and white. Middle managers usually are in positions that handle the uncomplicated decisions, but they are beginning to be challenged by the more complex decision-making situations. Senior managers are most often the ones responsible for the ongoing complex decision-making situations. This natural progression generally works very well as employees move along on their career track. Problems arise when new managers try to take on decision-making situations for which they’re not qualified, and the opposite extreme can happen when senior managers refuse to let less-difficult decisions be made by anyone but themselves. Either situation can cause great corporate damage.

If you’re always being challenged with addressing complex decisions, you need to delegate some of the decision-making responsibility to those individuals who will exhaust all possibilities and analyze all consequences before the decision is made. The downside of this type of decision maker is the possibility of delaying the decision. Think: paralysis by analysis. What can also happen is if you pressure these types of decision makers, they can delay their decision from fear of making the incorrect choice.

On the other end of the scale, we have the “reduce the issues to their simplest form” decision makers. As long as the decision to be made is somewhat usual and routine, these individuals will make a quick call. They will have issues with ambiguity, which can cause them to become frustrated and act impetuously, and possibly lead them to overlook important details. They then will make a snap decision that may or may not be in the best interest of the company.

The decision maker that most of us aspire to be is a blend of the two mentioned above. We generally like to make rapid and objective decisions, but we also like to feel we’re not under pressure when settling more complex issues. We know we need to gather the necessary information to make the best, most informed decision, so we take the time to do our research. The problem with this type of decision maker is sometimes he or she can over-simplify or even become stalled in the decision-making process from fear of making mistakes.

So, how do you determine which employees are the most comfortable making needed business decisions? First, we can simply ask the employees. Are they comfortable and can they get to a quality decision in the allotted time? A second way to identify a level of comfort with making decisions is to have them take an assessment—a tool that can help identity the quantity of information they need to make decisions. The third possibility and generally the hardest (but a lot of managers try this) is to simply observe these individuals’ behavior! Do the individuals make quick decisions, sometimes to the detriment of the department or company? Do the individuals get so far into the research of the issue that the decision-making process takes forever? If either case is observed, put the individuals in the decision-making process that favors their style and keep them from making decisions that could be incorrect or disruptive.

You probably have all three types of these employees within your organization. As long as you can allow them to work to their strengths, your organization can grow and you’ll have well-engaged employees.

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