One of the most difficult but important life skill is learning how to make the right decisions in life. We start learning this lesson very early in life and many struggle long after.

One of my mentors, Barbara Hemphill has built a 40+ year career on the phrase “clutter is postponed decisions.” We complain about the physical clutter in our lives and stress over the mental clutter. We get frustrated with the backlog of work and feel we can’t climb out of the “ditch of overwhelm.”

For many of my clients, making a decision about what to work on, when to do it and what comes next is an ongoing bitter battle. I’ve seen some get so frustrated that they stop making decisions and just deal with the fire in front of them.

The problem is that not making a decision about what to work on, is a decision!

The issue gets compounded when there is no clear direction from leadership about how to prioritize the workload. Lack of clarity on where you should invest your time, leads the entire team to delay or avoid conscious decisions about the workload.

Do You Run from Decisions?

Being indecisive and having difficulty making decisions can be a symptom of many things.

Having an overwhelming workload can lead to you being reactive and just dealing with whatever problem is in front of you. The decision of what to work on is made for you when the most urgent thing screams for attention.

Having very authoritative leaders who don’t delegate or who themselves are forced to keep the decision making reigns close, means subordinates never get to stretch their decision-making muscles. The team gets used to having the decisions made for them and get into a routine of following orders.

Not having experience in the specific area can lead to a reluctance to make a decision from fear of making the situation worse. Without the depth of knowledge or a trusted expert to guide the process, decision making can get stalled.

Past mistakes can lead to self doubt and a lack of confidence in one’s own skill, thought process or ability to lead, impacting decision making.

Whatever the reason, avoiding decision making is a bad habit. It creates frustration for you and others. Not making a decision, is actually you choosing to let others and circumstance decide for you. If you frowned when reading that, it’s time to figure out how to make and follow through on your own decisions.

The good news is that you already know how to make decisions. Some studies say that average person makes about 35,000 choices or decisions per day. If you don’t count the roughly 7 hours you should be sleeping at night, you’re making about 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds!

You made a choice to read this post. You decided to get out of bed and go to work. You’ve made a ton of little micro-decisions all day. So you’ve got the makings of a great decision maker. You just need intentional practice. Here goes!

There are Different Decision Making Styles

There are different decision making styles and models, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll focus on four. You have four choices on how to make decisions and when to involve others. Each style builds on the other in terms of minimizing your involvement in the decision as you delegate to others.

  1. Autocratic Decision Making: in this style, you make the decision by yourself without getting input or consideration from anyone. I consider this style useful when you have a crisis to manage or a very time sensitive decision, and you have enough information, experience and authority to make the decision without running it by anyone else.

  2. Consultative Decision Making: in this style, you seek input from others. Treating them as consultants, you get their input and opinions either one-on-one or in group and consider their perspectives. Ultimately, you still make and accept accountability for the final decision. This is useful when you need to take other opinions into consideration, or when your decision needs to be informed by Subject Matter Experts, but you have to make that final call.

  3. Team Decision Making: in this style, you pull the team or group together, and participate in the decision making process as a member of the team. Your opinion and input is equalized along with theirs. You can guide the conversation, present your arguments, but you are essentially facilitating the discussion and need to support the group decision. This is a useful approach when there is shared accountability and everyone has to “live” with the outcome. It’s also a great way to begin fostering independence, by guiding members through a process and teaching them in a safe space, how to come to their own conclusions.
  4. Delegating: in this style, you are removed from the decision making process, because you have delegated the decision to others. While you are informed, you are not a part of the conversation and you give up your “veto” power and the ability to over-ride the decision. This is style is useful when the team has enough experience and knowledge to make the decisions and waiting for your input would create a bottle neck.

What Decision Making Style is Right for You?

It depends. Our behavioral preferences affect how fast or slow we make decisions and how much we consider other factors.

Some are prone to making snap decisions, spending only enough time to gather enough facts to point then in a direction. Others are slower, now calculating in their decision making. Gathering and analyzing data, cross-checking facts and weighing the decision.

Some make decisions independently, in an authoritative manner and give direction to others on next steps. And yet another group may prefer to make decisions by consensus, where they seek input from a wide group, and check back at they go to get different perspectives and reactions to possible solutions.

All of these styles may be better suited to different circumstances. Consider where you and your team are in autonomy and experience and adapt the style to the situation.

Whether you make the decision from the heart or the head; by consensus, snap or careful calculation—decide to decide! Remember, not making a decision is in itself, a decision to stand by and not take action.Coaching can help you improve your decision making style. Schedule your complimentary Discovery Session to learn how.

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