Every day, we make hundreds of decisions.  Will I get up and exercise this morning?  Should I drive or take the train? Will I have a healthy snack or eat that donut in the breakroom?  We make most daily choices quickly and easily.  But when it comes to our careers, there are many more variables to consider with each rung of the career ladder — the complexity, risk, and scrutiny of decision-making increases. 

The fact is, decision making is a key skill required in leadership roles, but many people are uncomfortable making them.   If one is not comfortable with the smaller decisions in their current role, it will be difficult to progress to the next career level. 

The good news is that like any skill, professionals can improve their decision making with practice.    

Start working that muscle

The only way to strengthen a muscle is to work it, right?  If you’re not sure where to start, think about your everyday tasks on the job.  Are there choices you must make that give you anxiety?  That’s probably the best place to begin.  If that’s too intimidating, think of a personal decision you need to make. 

Start with small choices with minimal consequences, then work your way up to harder ones with more at risk.

Explore your feelings 

Before you can improve your decision-making skills, you must understand why you’re hesitant to make them.  Decision-making does require a logical thought process, but there are many emotions involved as well, such as fear and anxiety. 

Are you worried you’ll miss out on a better opportunity if you make one choice?  Are you concerned about how you’ll look to others if you make a ‘wrong choice?’  Be honest in your reflection of your emotions and dig down to get to the root cause.

Carefully weigh your options

It’s okay if you can’t decide quickly.  In fact, taking the time to weigh your options will most like address the cause of your indecision.   Here are some guidelines to get your starting in considering your choices:

  1. Determine what you want to accomplish in the end
  2. Review all available data
  3. Seek counsel from trusted advisors
  4. Write up the pros and cons of possible options
  5. Ask yourself: What happens if I do? What happens if I don’t?
  6. Determine how each option aligns to your personal values

Keep in mind; there is no ‘right’ way.   There are only options eliminated if you go in another direction. 

Make the decision

To avoid getting bogged down with all the facts, give yourself a deadline to make your choice.  Make it, then accept what follows.  If you’re able to defend your decision confidently, you’ll feel more at peace with it regardless of the outcome. 

Live and learn

Even if your decision doesn’t pan out as expected, that’s okay.   You become wiser with each decision you make, which you can apply to future decisions.   Did you know that not deciding is still deciding, only in a passive way?  By carefully considering what’s at stake, you can take control of an outcome with an informed decision. 

Additional resources

Are you a good decision maker?

Tips to help you make big decisions


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