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Set yourself up to
make the right decision

Do your decision-making skills allow you to make the right call?

By Angela Civitella

Are you sometimes doubtful and do not feel quite ready to make an important decision? It sometimes requires careful preparation. It does not just refer to getting all your facts straight – sometimes the most fact bound individuals end up making horrendous mistakes. It is the ability to process the information you have at hand and not be distracted by other tasks, that assures your ability to make the right call.

In this article, we explore tips and techniques for minimizing confusion and self-doubt, so that you can set yourself up to make great decisions.

It is the ability to process the information you have at hand and not be distracted by other tasks, that assures your ability to make the right call.

Instinct and common sense in decision-making

We all make hundreds of decisions every day that require a certain amount of mental effort. A lot of time is spent on thinking about the most critical decisions, important choices to make, but others are untaught and under your own power, barely noticing we’re making them.

Psychologist Daniel Kahneman examined these two ways of thinking in his 2011 book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. He called them System One and System Two.

System One: this is the ‘fast’, intuitive and instinctive thinking you do. For example, when you’re driving along a familiar road “on autopilot”.
System Two: in this ‘slow’ mode, we address problems consciously and deliberately. These problems can include complicated or important business issues.

Kahneman says that understanding how the two systems interact and influence each other can help you to lay the foundations for making better decisions.

Setting into the right mind space

It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re trying to decide on a dozen other things. According to Kahneman, System One thinking has a tendency to take over and rush you to a conclusion.

So, it’s important to clear your mind of clutter and focus on making an effective decision consciously and logically. Concentrate on one aspect of a problem at a time, and work your way through it calmly.

… it’s important to clear your mind of clutter and focus on making an effective decision consciously and logically.

This is where the practice of mindfulness and being centred comes in. Mindfulness means being fully aware of your thoughts, emotions and actions in the moment. Similarly, centring is a visualization technique to help you to focus on the here and now to manage stress.

Focusing on your tendencies

One pitfall of System One thinking is that it is influenced by how we are inclined to think about things, which can lead to poor decision-making. For example, we may give greater weight to the first piece of information that we receive, even if it’s less accurate or useful than subsequent data.

We are also prone to “confirmation bias”. This is when you favour information that backs up your existing beliefs. It’s important to challenge such assumptions and biases. It is vital to apply critical thinking and not be trapped by our prejudices and predictable thinking, which offer predictable outcomes, which in turn allows for mistakes.

Trusting yourself and your team

Self-doubt is very much present when you’re responsible for a major decision. After all, your decision could impact your organization’s profits, or the livelihoods of your team members.

With so much at stake, it’s only natural and sensible that you’d want to gather and assess as much data as you can before making your decision. But in most cases, there is no perfect solution that satisfies everyone involved.

You have to trust yourself to make the right call with the information you have. If you keep searching for the perfect solution, you may end up unable to decide at all. Do not fall into the trap of “analysis-paralysis” – it is a dead end that is very difficult to surmount.

‘You have to trust yourself to make the right call with the information you have.’

Remember, as a manager, you were likely given responsibility for making decisions because of the trust your boss and organization has in you.

Trust is also important when making a complex decision and including your team as part of this process only strengthens the qualities that put you in charge in the first place. Leading by example while promoting an open and honest communication flow with your team will lend to re-enforcing your ability to decide on all matters big and small with their backing.

Using your time effectively

Some degree of pressure goes hand in hand with decision-making. So for your own sanity, avoid deferring to later something that needs to be focused on and handled immediately, or your System One thinking may kick in and rush you into making a poor choice.

You will likely make much better decisions if you use the time you have effectively. Knowing how to prioritize can help you to stay calm and create a space in which to think and focus on the problem.

Try to analyze your time management skills and how effective you are in mapping out all of the things that need to be decided on and resolved.

Points to remember

Our minds operate in ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ modes when making decisions, according to psychologist Daniel Kahneman. Understanding this process, and preparing yourself mentally in advance, can help you to make decisions more effectively.

You can avoid the confusion and stress of decision-making by using mindfulness and centring, trusting in your own ability to make good decisions, and making the best possible use of your time.

Understanding how your mind approaches problems can also help you to eliminate biases and improve the quality of your judgment.

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Image: via StockPholio.com

Read also: Can your co-workers drive your career?


Angela Civitella, a certified management business coach with more than 20 years of proven ability as a negotiator, strategist, and problem-solver, creates sound and solid synergies with those in quest of improving their leadership and team building skills. You can reach Angela at 514 254-2400 • linkedin.com/in/angelacivitella/ • intinde.com@intinde


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