Messages from the Masters
A Leader Is a Decision Maker by Sheila Murray Bethel, Ph.D.

Every day of our lives we are faced with decisions.  Whether in our business or personal lives, to make a difference, Leaders need to develop the valuable skill of productive profitable decision-making. Recent survey of the Fortune 500 companies revealed that one of the most important qualities Leaders look for when hiring or promoting is a person's ability to make decisions.

How do you rank in decision-making skills?  When you're under pressure, can you take the risk, make the decision, and accept responsibility for the outcome?  Or, do you feel like the centipede that was told to put his best foot forward?  Going through the mental and emotional gymnastics of committing yourself to the task of deciding is not always easy.  It can keep you up all night, weighing the pros and cons. It can take your energy and your attention from other important things.  It can be a difficult, stress filled time, but getting caught in the trap of indecision is just is bad.  When you don't decide, time and circumstance will decide for you.

One of the most important steps a leader can make is preparing to decide.  This step gives you information, data, and insight into the decision to be made.  For simple daily decisions a checklist can be done mentally in just a few minutes.  For major ones you'll need paper, pencil and a quiet place to concentrate.

Eight Key Questions:

1. Is the objective of the decision clearly defined?

In analyzing the alternatives and consequences of the decision, your objectives must be as clear as possible or you may be led astray.

2. Who should make the decision? 

Are you really the person to be deciding?  Or, is this a decision you should delegate to someone else...even a group of people?

3. What time factors are involved?

Do you have deadlines or time frames in which you must work? Are they reasonable?  The author Paul Moody, in referring to the "time cost trade-off," explains that the cost of gathering data increases with the time spent.  At some point it becomes too costly to delay making the decision.  You need to consider this early in your preparations to deciding.

4. Do you have enough information to make the decision?

Do you need to enlist a specialist to give you further facts?  Some research might give you a better view of both sides of the question or problem to which your decision is targeted.  Can you delegate part of the information gathering process?

5. Have you done a field force analysis?

Every situation is controlled by forces (people, circumstances, policies, etc.) acting upon it.  What forces will be acting in favor of your decision?  What forces will be acting against your decision?  Identifying the issue can help you better plan your course of action to be taken once the decision is made.

6. What risks are involved in this decision?

Are you willing to accept the responsibility for the potential payoffs or losses in terms of human relations, finances, time, effort and commitment?

7.  Are you ready to implement?

Making a decision before you are ready to act upon it is a waste of time, energy and money.  Be sure that you have at least moderate resources ready to carry out your action plan once the decision is made.

8. How will you track the outcome of your decisions?

Feedback is vital to your decision-making skills.  In statistical written form or by brainstorming with the people affected by, or involved in, the decision. Feedback will enable you to make better decisions in the future.

True Test

There are many times in life and in business when you don't have the luxury of going through all these questions.  The situation is urgent and you must decide immediately.  Now comes the true test of the Leader.  He or she takes whenever information is available, reaches down inside for a gut reaction, makes a mental jump and decides.  At times like this some kind of a decision is better than none.  Rarely are our decisions irrevocable.  If the wrong decision was made, it can be repaired or corrected.  But, if you want to make a difference, not deciding is usually the worse decision of all.

To learn more about Sheila Murray Bethel's audios, books and speaking schedule, visit  © Copyright Bethel Institute 2000

Provided courtesy of  Jim Rohn International

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