decision makingLeaders face tough decisions every day. Great leaders make decisions every day. But how when there is scientific proof that the brain actually shuts down when faced with tough choices? These great men and women throw out assumptions that often get in the way of decisiveness.

Here are four incorrectly held beliefs to avoid:

We don’t have time (or interest) to involve everyone with a stake in the decision.”

When people who have a stake in an issue get left out of the decision, they feel slighted and become resistant to change. Successful decisions engage stakeholders effectively and efficiently. How? They use multiple opportunities to participate and flexible ways to share perspectives. You’ll be amazed by unexpected sources of insight and ideas.

People need to agree on ‘why’ to agree on ‘what’ to do.”

Participants waste a lot of time in decision making trying to convince others of their reasons. In reality, people can agree on a shared course of action for very different reasons. Thus, encourage everyone to share their perspectives, but don’t try to change their thinking. As they say, “The only person who wants to be changed by someone else is a wet baby.” People will change their minds more readily if you let them digest the information and decide on their own. Here’s how. Ask each participant to circle the option that she or he believes best advances the hopes you share. Encourage everyone to list other acceptable options as well. With this information, you can quickly map the preferences. This focuses discussion on the most promising solution and ways to enhance it with attributes from other acceptable solutions.

The future will follow our design.”

The only thing we know for sure is that the future will not be exactly as we have conceived it. Many strategic planning and decision efforts blind participants to this reality. They spend so much time designing what they want that they become wedded to their own views and miss chances to perceive future changes and adapt. So, how do we deal with this reality? Develop a preferred choice and one or more acceptable choices. Then, you can see which one fits best as the future unfolds. Importantly, it won’t be as likely that you’ll need to redo your whole decision process because you are prepared with acceptable alternatives. High-performing organizations follow a continuous cycle of learn, decide, and act.

“Fast decisions yield quick results.”

Decisions only serve when they produce results. Too often, participants cut corners because they feel that they “don’t have enough time” to avoid the pitfalls described above. Often, a little longer time to get the decision right – engage the stakeholders, understand the real issue, and develop fresh options — will yield quicker implementation. People will share ownership, learning, and solutions. They will be a stronger learning organization to tackle the challenges ahead. They will be more effective implementers.

Great decisions make people and their organizations great. Erase these assumptions and you’re on your way.

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