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Cheat Sheet to Making Your Business’s Big Decisions

Choose with confidence in 6 short steps


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Shane Kinkennon

3 years ago | 3 min read

Is your job one that routinely requires you to make big, hairy choices? The kind that could reap big rewards for your organization or end up really costly? The kind that could affect the livelihoods of your people?

CEOs and other business leaders are forced to make major decisions almost daily. It’s a weight to carry. How an executive’s decisions tend to turn out on average is the stuff of career trajectories.

How do you give yourself the best chance of successful decisions when the stakes are high? How do you situate yourself to be decisive when it feels like there’s not enough information or way too many variables?

The answers, as with so many things, to plan. It’s to be intentional and methodical by establishing your own rubric for working through complex choices. Here is how:

1. Know.

Have a mental image of your best decision-making formula. Draw a simple diagram. What are your preferred inputs? At what point do you want to see data, and how do you want it organized? When and how do you like to consider research findings? How do you prefer to assimilate customer feedback? What about community input? Staff perspective? Capture all the elements in the sequence that feels most natural.

Resist the urge to keep it mental only. Draw it out, scribble notes around the edges, sleep on it, then refine it. Codify what great decision-making for you looks like then refer to it regularly.

2. Orient.

Orient to broader strategy. Take a fresh look at your strategic plan. Ground yourself in what your company or organization has said it will achieve.

Is one of your options an opportunity to finally address that unique customer pain point? Might one path finally unlock progress toward an elusive key result? Or would it distract from more important priorities?

When you must decide something elemental, determine what your core strategies suggest about how you might meet the moment.

3. Balance.

Balance data, insights, and perspectives. What do relevant results thus far reveal? What does the data suggest? Those are facts, and they warrant careful consideration.

Yet your instinct counts, or you wouldn’t be where you are. What do you know in your gut that your customers or other key stakeholders truly want? What do your most talented teammates believe? Task yourself with quickly finding and sorting all relevant information.

4. Detect.

Fear of a bad decision is natural for conscientious leaders. It’s nothing to be ashamed of — it means you have a heart. Knowing it’s at work is the key to preventing it from getting in your way.

Physiological effects like a clenched jaw or tightening in the chest are signs that fear is present. Breathe through the signs to keep stress-inducing adrenaline and cortisol in check. Pause regularly during your decision-making process to assess if fear is at work.

Plan to prevent fear of a wrong move from compromising your ability to assess skillfully and decide with confidence.

5. Decide.

This one may seem obvious, but sometimes it proves elusive to even the most conscientious and competent of leaders. When your business needs you to decide, do so.

Do so at the moment a decision is required. By having your own decision-making plan, you can be reasonably confident, even if you don’t have all of the information you would prefer.

By contrast, if you you delay needed decision, uncertainty is amplified through the ranks, breeding misalignment and conflict. Now is the time to choose and move forward.

6. Commit.

When you make a consequential decision, plan to practice and even exhibit conviction. Show interest in follow-up strategy and the learnings that arise from implementation. Give the decision time to mature. Don’t react at the first negative indicator.

If, in time, results suggest a revision is needed, be transparent and forthright — don’t defend or gloss it over. Such testing and adaptation is an unavoidable part of being a business leader in an industry affected by troubled times.

When the world is surging and contorting, decisiveness is what your business desperately needs.

Thankfully, it can be practiced. One’s approach to it can established and refined. And that intentionality is available to anyone who is faced with making big decisions for their business.

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Shane Kinkennon

Certified Executive Coach. I work with CEOs of company up to $500M to help them get the most of their human capital and to lead change.


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