Bad decisions, smart decisions

In business, smart decisions can save grief in the present, and launch you into the future. On the other hand, just one poor decision can plunge you into a never-ending, frustrating morass. Your reputation, your effectiveness and potentially your career depend on your decisions.

Bad Decisions Run Deep

What was the last really bad decision you made? Remember that churning in your stomach, the lump in your throat and the clammy sweat when you realized that you were knee deep in the muck?

Extricating yourself from the misstep probably took significant time and effort. You might have stretched the truth a bit to justify your action, and discovered that you were only digging yourself deeper. You debated whether to confess everything to your boss, or try to work things out before anyone noticed. Either way, you did your best to muddle through, mend bridges, undo the damage, and get back on track in the right direction. And even now, deep down, you might be worrying that this event might have damaged your future career. A repeat occurrence can brand you as un-coachable, and stop promotions in their tracks.

Smart Decisions – Sidestepping the Swamp

We’re all human, and will inevitably make decisions we regret. But a few checkpoints can help steer you into safer harbors.

  • Ask first. Ask a lot of questions to stakeholders, and really listen to the answers. Get all the information you can before making a decision. You might not have the luxury of a long lead time, but gather as much input as possible to help formulate the best solution. Even in a life and death situations, rescue personnel will ask, “Can you hear me?” or “Can you move?” or other key questions to help their decision-making.
  • Consider the long-range impact. You might be a hero today, but have unleashed a catastrophic crisis tomorrow. Ignoring an employee’s hostile performance might avoid conflict now, but result in the mass exodus of great employees who don’t have to tolerate a toxic workplace. Smart decisions can often be the most difficult to make.
  • Take a big picture view. Sometimes the best decision for the unit is not the best decision for the organization. Recognize the best local decision, and also acknowledge that some other choice, variation or compromise may be better for the whole. Give upper management the information to make their best decisions.
  • Get outside perspectives. Things that look impossible from the inside often are transparent to an outside observer. Find or create a trusted peer group to gain insights, perspectives and solutions you might never have considered.
  • Own up to mistakes. Trying to cover up a poor decision is often a worse decision. Take responsibility, learn from the experience, and share how you will avoid a recurrence. Knowing the true situation can enable others to help you resolve the problem.

You make business decisions on a daily basis. Some are trivial, others can be significant. Think before you act. Be smart. Take a few moments to make better business decisions and save frustration, resources and time.