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Three Tips for Making Tough Decisions

Tough decisions are part of leadership. And as a leader, you will make more of them than you could ever imagine from the outside looking in. And what defines a tough decision varies from leader to leader. I had a nasty tendency to let them weigh on me. Sometimes I waited too long to make them as a result. This post will outline three things that will help you make tough decisions to reduce your stress and build your leadership confidence.

Making Tough Decisions

Don’t Wait – You Will Never Have Perfect Information.

One of my old bosses had a phrase I quote all the time.

“Problems Don’t Age Well.”

He meant that when you don’t deal with problems, like tough decisions, they don’t get easier with time. I find some leaders I work with delay making tough decisions, often for the very logical reason that they don’t have enough information to make the best decision.

But here’s the thing: You will never have perfect information. There will always be questions or more information to uncover. And before you know it, your quest for details turns into a significant delay in decision-making. When you take too long to make a tough decision, a few things will happen.

  1. The problem you need to decide on will get worse.
  2. Your team will get frustrated with your delay, which undermines your leadership.

Here’s what won’t happen. The problem will not go away. It may recede into the background for a bit, but it will come back when you do not deal with the issue. And often with a vengeance.

So, what do you do?

  1. As soon as you know of a tough decision, get information as quickly as possible.
  2. Be self-aware and honest. Know yourself well enough to know when the desire for more data just puts off the inevitable.
  3. Pull the trigger and decide with the best possible information you have.

Be aware that everyone has an agenda.

And I realize that sounds like a terrible thing to say. After all, you have surrounded yourself with great people you handpicked for the job. I don’t mean to say that the agenda they bring to the table is bad, but most people have an agenda or at least a perspective when they provide you with input or feedback.

One of the challenges of leadership is assessing the information you are provided in your decision-making process. Everyone bringing you information, input, or data has some inherent bias based on their priorities. And they do it with the best of intentions. Your operations people will look at issues differently than your financial people. You don’t pay them to think globally. That is your job.

When you get feedback from the team, realize it all comes through a somewhat biased lens. You need to look at all that information collectively and decide what opinion is, what is a fact, and what is the best thing for your business, short and long-term.

So, what do you do?

  1. Gather information on a tough decision from all your key people.
  2. Assess it objectively, separating what is best for them from what is best for the business.
  3. Make the decision based on the various perspectives and what you believe will be best for your business and the team.

Believe in Yourself When Making Tough Decisions

“I learned that you have to push away the demand of people’s expectations by believing in your instincts.” – Stefano Pilati

Leaders, no matter how much data and feedback you receive, you will ultimately have to make the tough decision. And making that call starts with trusting yourself. You have risen to this position of leadership for a reason. Your combined experience led you to this role; you can rely on it to make decisions effectively.

And your decisions won’t always be popular. Some members of your team will be disappointed, and that can hurt. But it would be best to push that feeling away when deciding. Your job is to take care of the greater good of your business.

So, trust your gut and make the call. Then, communicate the decision to your team and other key stakeholders. And do it boldly, taking responsibility and acknowledging those who disagree.

Then, observe how your decision unfolds. Review the outcomes and ensure that they are in line with your expectations. If they’re not, make the necessary adjustments. Don’t commit to the course if it turns out the decision was wrong.

Finally, take the long view on tough decisions. The most challenging time is the moment of decision. You will feel relief and perhaps some regret. Resist the urge to second-guess yourself. Business leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. While these decisions are challenging at the moment, they are just part of your leadership journey.

If you are struggling with significant decisions, I can help. Schedule a free leadership assessment to learn how you can level up!