Recently I spoke to my team about the decision making process. I think it’s an important skill to have both for your life and career. And, if you’re the leader of an organization, you have a special obligation to master the skill.

Some of us are quick decision makers. Others take their time to mull things through for a little while. We’re people, and different people have different ways to make decisions. But in my experience, I’ve found you can make the best decision in the shortest amount of time (e.g. only the time that’s necessary), without getting stuck in paralysis of analysis.

Here’s how I do it.

  1. Censor your choices. When you’re going through big decisions, it’s easy to get awash in a lot of choices. Keeping your options open is a good thing, but only for a short while. At some point, you’re going to want to begin to reduce your options and drive toward a decision. If you are confused about what path you want to take, you likely have too many options on the table. It’s like walking into a massive warehouse store where there are too many choices and you walk out of the store with nothing. Start getting rid of choices that don’t make any sense.
  2. Follow your gut. Your gut is your greatest advisor. The problem is that many times, people don’t listen to it. They have a feeling that something isn’t going to be good, but they rationalize a bad choice anyway. Yes, you need your mind, and you need to use reason to make decisions, but your gut is a good indicator as well. I’ve found time and again in life that people have made bad decisions when they haven’t followed their gut. Their gut was blaring a red signal and “Stop,” but they didn’t listen and paid terrible consequences. If your gut is giving you a strong green or red light indicator, trust it.
  3. Indecision kills many dreams. The world is littered with billions of ideas and dreams. The reason why all of those ideas and dreams are all dead in the wasteland of non-reality is due to indecision. Indecision is an idea and dream killer. If you need to get from one place to another, change something about your life, career or job, the worst thing you can do for yourself is to stay in the land of indecision. It will sap your energy and motivation. Eventually, it will become quicksand and keep you in place. Don’t drown in paralysis of analysis. The best way to counteract indecisions is to create a deadline on the final decision, and leading up to that creating milestones where you will review your choices and dispose of ones that aren’t “right” for one reason or another.
  4. Make the decision. Finally, make the decision. If you need to put timelines for yourself to make decisions, then do that as a way to force you to decide. And, once you make the decision, own it. Let the chips fall where they may. You may end up getting push back, and things may not go as planned. You may have challenges that will test your will; in fact, more than likely that will happen. Learn from all of it. Make course corrections as necessary, but own that decision. What I mean that is simply to be responsible and accountable for your choices and decisions. 

You’ll never get to where you want to go in any respect in your life or career if you don’t make decisions. It’s just not possible. However, you can become excellent at making sound decisions by following the steps mentioned above.

A final caveat, often you’ll hear a lot about making the “best” decision. We all have a natural inclination to want to make the best decision, but sometimes, the “best” you can get­­––particularly in tough life decisions––is only a “good” choice. In other words, don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good. And, don’t believe the “best” is necessary the right decision.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2017 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved.