Difficult decisions don’t have to be so…difficult

Difficult decisions don't have to be so difficult

So, you’ve got a big decision to make. You know it needs to be made so that everyone involved can move forward. But, arrgh! How do you get the thinking time when there’s so much going on?

And how on earth do you make the right decision?

I know the feeling. And so do my coaching clients.

Some will delay and delay and then, under pressure, make a quick scattered decision and worry they’ve not made the right one. Others tell me they will spend hours gathering every tiny detail of info before they take a decision. (Bizarrely, all that info doesn’t seem to help.) Meanwhile the decision rumbles around causing anxiety – most often in the middle of the night – making it even more difficult to think straight. We’ve all been there, right?

I encourage my coaching clients to think differently. Here’s how.

There are no right decisions

There is no such thing as the right decision

The most important thing I share is that there is no such thing as the right decision. Although decisions we make in our sector can be serious, it’s highly unlikely that any one decision will have catastrophic consequences.  One decision will take you and your team down one road and another will take you down another road. Both are equally good. We simply cannot know whether a decision is right or wrong, but we can sure drive ourselves crazy trying to find out.

This is important. Why? Because when we realise this, we break the bind of thinking that decisions are hard. If there’s no such thing as a wrong decision, you can just make it, and move on to other things. Phew, what a relief.

Leaders make decisions!

Having said that, I encourage my clients to be mindful that making decisions is part of the territory for leaders, so they may as well find an approach which is authentic and real for them.

I was recently coaching a charity team leader who had been promoted into a more senior role. He felt his tendency to defer to others with lots of experience was undermining his authority. And he was probably right. We worked on making decisions using the ‘there’s no such thing as the right decision’ rule and it was good to see him step up into his role in this way.

Making complex decisions and even smaller ones in a timely fashion is a key difference between leaders and followers. Followers don’t like ambiguity. They want to know the direction and the vision. So you need to give it to them.

Bring in diverse perspectives

It also seems clear from recent research that the ‘best’ decisions draw on a wide set of diverse perspectives. The perfectionist approach of sitting for hours alone at your desk gathering info is isolating. It’s important to cast your inquiry widely, but a good leader will take a more inclusive approach. I encourage my clients to invite ideas and suggestions from as wide a set of stakeholders as possible when there’s a complex decision to make. And then, make their decision and own it.

Over to you

As with most things, practice makes perfect! Do you have any big decisions to make? Try applying the ‘no such thing as a right decision’ rule and see how freeing it can be. What else could you do differently to make the decision-making process less painful for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please do share in the comments below.

What next?

When you’re a non-profit leader faced with a big decision, it can feel very lonely. That’s why our theme for the next Leaders Who Brunch, taking place on Wednesday 1st May, is ‘difficult decisions’. There’s so much wisdom in the group – I know you’ll leave feeling inspired! Find out more and get your ticket here.