“It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it” – 7 steps to smooth decision-making

Great decision-making involves different stakeholders

Okay, so I’m about to contradict myself!

In my last blog, I talked about how there is no such thing as a wrong decision. And I believe that. Apart from a very few exceptions, that really will be the case.

At our recent Leaders Who Brunch meet-up the group found it a useful approach to potentially overwhelming decisions which can literally freeze them with anxiety. No need to procrastinate on a tricky decision if there is no one correct choice, right? You can just get on with it.

Well, yes and no. Just getting on with it is certainly a good way to get a decision made. But I advise my non-profit coaching clients to make sure they incorporate seven critical steps into their decision-making so that avoidable problems don’t come up along the way.

1. Be 100% clear about the problem you want to solve

I find that my coaching clients aren’t always too clear about what exactly it is that needs changing. I encourage them to ask a few critical questions before they do a thing.  What exactly is wrong? What is the problem? Why is this a problem?

One approach is to create a very short, clear statement of the problem, for example ‘Income is falling’, and then ask ‘Why?’ five times. By the end of what can be quite a tough questioning process they will be really clear about what the actual problem is, what needs to change and therefore what decision needs making.

2. Invite stakeholders to input

The not-for-profit sector is known for its democratic approach to decision-making so that everyone gets their voice heard. It can be powerful but it can also lead to long, drawn-out discussions and resentment when expectations aren’t met. I encourage you to get total clarity on exactly how you’ll put a democratic approach into practice.

Who really needs to input? Why? How will they be involved? When? What weight will you give to their responses? Who will make the final decision? How?

These questions are important and often get missed out or considered rather too late in the process.

3. Explore creative options

Generate plenty of alternatives in your decision-masking

This stage is all about finding different ways to solve the problem in step 1. At its simplest, you need to be asking ‘What could we do? What else? What else?’ until you have a broad range of alternatives to explore.

There are a whole set of fun and interesting approaches which generate creative and innovative possibilities and avoid the bias, ‘group think’ and limiting thinking that can happen in decision-making. Brainstorming is one obvious method, but there’s also ‘reverse brainstorming’ where you ask, ‘if we wanted to achieve the exact opposite what would we do?’ Another is the ‘appreciation process’ where you look at what is currently working really well rather than what needs to change. Both these approaches throw up ideas which might otherwise not get considered.

Then, there are four more stages to put into place for great decision-making.

4. Test all possible outcomes

5. Select best option

6. Communicate decision

7. Take confident action

More on steps 4-7 in my next blog.

Over to you

Do you have any big decisions to make, and how would you usually make them? Could any of these tips help? Start by asking ‘why?’ five times and see what emerges!

What next?

If you struggle to make decisions, and would like to explore coaching on this or other leadership challenges, drop me a line at
katie@be-the-change.org.uk to see how I might be able to help.