As a leader or executive at the top of your firm or organization, one of your most important tasks is making smart decisions for your team, its productivity, and its profitability. However, making decisions is far easier said than done — especially in the kind of tumultuous business environment we’ve been seeing for the last few years.
If you’re feeling stressed and struggling with making decisions, you’re not alone. According to a study by McKinsey, only 20% of participants reported that their company was proficient in decision making; the majority admit they have room for improvement. A 10-year Harvard Business Review study found that more than half of newly appointed executives admitted that making the decisions required for their roles was more difficult and complicated than expected.
The good news? Establishing a well-defined, deliberate decision-making process is the key to positive outcomes.
Today, we’re taking a look at some of the most common challenges leaders face when making decisions and how you can overcome those challenges to make smarter and faster decisions that launch you toward success.
10 Challenges Leaders Face When Making Decisions
First, let’s explore some of the top challenges we see leaders face when making decisions. Do any of these issues sound familiar?
A lack of information
How can you be expected to make smart decisions when you don’t have all the necessary information? Unfortunately, that’s one of the major traps decision makers can fall into, according to Harvard Business Review. Whether it’s bad data or bias, a lack of the right information in the decision-making process means you’re making decisions based on the wrong information.
Uncertainty or ambiguity surrounding the situation
A lack of information can lead you to something called the ambiguity effect, which is a cognitive bias that pushes you to make choices that come with the most information — even if they are the wrong choices.
Pressure to make a decision
There have been many studies on how pressure impacts decision making, but you likely already know the primary consensus: Pressure turns some decision makers into jelly, while it drives others to make smart, savvy decisions. Which camp do you fall into? (More on how to be in the latter group down below.)
Fear of failure
Did you know that there’s an actual term for the fear of failure? Atychiphobia is a real thing that plagues decision makers and team members all the way down the chain of command. However, all too often, a fear of failure triggers a “fight, flight, or freeze” signal in the brain — none of which is too helpful for the decision maker who needs to please their stakeholders … which brings us to the next challenge on our list.
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Pressure to please stakeholders and conform
Unfortunately, pressure to please stakeholders can often drive decision makers to conform to the way an organization has always done things, leaving little room for them to make ground-breaking, innovative decisions that can take an organization to new heights of success.
As is the case with all biases, cognitive biases are difficult to recognize in yourself. However, if you can recognize your own cognitive bias, you’ll be able to make better, smarter decisions.
Sometimes, the issue with making decisions isn’t even about the challenge the decision poses, but the difficulty decision makers have in prioritizing and putting the proper emphasis on the decision that needs to be made.
Complex or conflicting data
But let’s say you’ve overcome the ambiguity effect and the challenge of a lack of information by doing your due diligence and collecting a lot of relevant data. What do you do if that data is complex or conflicting? Some decision makers may feel paralyzed or unsure of how to move forward in such instances. This uncertainty can lead to missed opportunities and decreased confidence among stakeholders.
Lack of input
Some decision makers are independent, lone wolves, while others like to have the support of their pack. Whatever the case may be, lack of input affects decisions, just like lack of information does.
Inability to assess and manage risk
Lastly, smart decision makers must be able to correctly assess and manage risks. Not being able to do so can not only compromise your ability to make good decisions — it can compromise your ability to make decisions at all.
How to Overcome Challenges and Make Good Decisions
Effective decision making is crucial for achieving successful outcomes, but it can be challenging in complex and uncertain environments.
One way to better equip yourself to overcome such challenges is by committing to a decision-making framework. At Arootah, we’ve created an effective 10-step process decision makers can follow to make data-driven, unbiased decisions.
Here’s what that process looks like:
- Identify criteria
- Identify your purpose
- Rank criteria
- Weigh the most important elements
- Find your blind spots and minimize cognitive bias
- Generate your options
- Score your options
- Mitigate risks
- Check in with your intuition
- Make your decision
We’ve also developed our own tool, the Arootah Decision Manager app, to assist decision makers in navigating the decision-making process and achieving better outcomes. The app walks users through the 10 steps mentioned above, guiding them to consider multiple criteria and eliminate cognitive bias from their decision making.
By following this process and leveraging technology, decision makers can overcome challenges to make more informed and effective decisions.
The Bottom Line
Decision making is a crucial aspect of leadership, but it can be challenging without a structured process in place.
Arootah’s 10-step decision-making process and our Decision Manager app are designed to assist decision makers in navigating complex and uncertain environments with greater confidence and clarity.
If you need further support in making better decisions for your organization, take our quick assessment to determine your strengths and areas for growth.