The good news is that we can get better at making decisions, but only when we become aware of where we typically get stuck.
Below are five “types” of decision making which might lead to making poor decisions. I can fall into all five of these, but one or two of them are where I go the most.
Try to identify which ones most closely match your own type.
1. The Lone Ranger. When it comes to difficult decisions, the tendency for the Lone Ranger is to obsess carefully think through his options by himself, and assume that only he really knows his unique situation. The Lone Ranger sometimes even takes a team through the process of discussion and recommendation, but then ignores that process and makes his own decision anyway. The problem with the Lone Ranger is that he insists on doing it his way, and learning only from his own mistakes. But when he talks to someone who has been there before, two really good things happen: he feels less alone, and he learns from someone else’s mistakes.
Try This: Call someone who has been there before, and learn from their mistakes. This is a double investment; you get a great solution and you don’t have to make the same mistakes yourself.
2. The Over-Thinker. Some decisions are straightforward, but over-thinkers make them more complicated by obsessing over every option. The problem is that over-thinkers don’t realize that they’re over-thinkers. Are you typically the last one to decide what to eat at a restaurant, as you scan and rescan for the perfect meal? If so, you’re an over-thinker. Over-thinking easy decisions is deadly because it takes so much energy.
Try This: Make the easy decisions quickly and move on. For example, the next time you’re at a restaurant, take 1 minute, and just pick something. It’ll feel both terrifying and freeing at the same time. My dad has done this simple discipline his whole life, and he makes terrific decisions.
3. The Activator. I have activation and ideation as two of my top five strengths, so I tend to have lots of ideas, and I want to implement them before they’re ready. In meetings, my energy goes way up when we’re deciding things and making progress. I tend to get impatient with the process people who have a million questions. The strength is that I can help teams get moving, versus trying to make things perfect before we implement. But there is a huge shadow side to this strength: sometimes I try to force something that isn’t ready, aborting necessary conversation that would help us make better decisions and create better processes.
Try This: Slow down and listen to the process people. Great ideas crash and burn without great plans.
4. The Co-Dependent. Sometimes, difficult decisions require tough love, and even things that could end up being positive for someone will feel at first like a wound. The co-dependent is always trying to look for the win/win so that everyone feels good. This is sometimes possible, but other times, what is decided will not feel like a win for everybody, but it’s still the right thing to do. Co-dependent decision makers typically spend too much time thinking about how the the person most affected by the decision will feel (supervisee, child, etc), and not enough time focusing on what they know in their heart is the right thing to do.
Try This: Just ask yourself: Am I overly invested in how someone else will feel, at the expense of doing the right thing? Many times, if you can get an honest answer to that question, the decision becomes quite clear.
5. The Empty Tank. You need to notice when you’re overly depleted, discouraged, or insecure, and try not to make any big decisions when you’re in that place. When I’m in any one of those states, I’m not thinking clearly, and I typically want to take the path that makes the problem go away the quickest. Wait until you are in a better place to make that tough decision.
Try This: Trying to make tough decisions when you’re depleted is dangerous. Have the courage to press pause and gather what you need to make the decision from a more resourced place.
What type do you most closely resonate with, and what helps you to make better decisions?