decision making

Leaders, it’s time to upgrade your decision-making

How many decisions do you make as a leader? Think of today alone. Starting from the very first decision you made. When to get up? What to wear? What to eat for breakfast? What emails are important to respond to? What are the priorities of the day? How do I address that issue with my team member? When do I pull back from that task, when do I dig in?

Does that sound familiar?

As leaders, we make thousands of decisions each week. It can become tiring. Decision fatigue is a very real thing.

There have been plenty of studies that verify the effects of decision fatigue. President Obama was famous for his method in combating decision fatigue. He only ever wore dark blue or black suits when he served as president. Not having to choose what he wore daily saved his energy for more important decisions.

Decision making is a massive part of being a leader, don’t you think? (Don’t answer that, you don’t need to… save your brain). Given that decisions are so important to leadership, it’s worth digging a little deeper into this topic. To that end, this blog post explores what to watch out for when you are making decisions as a leader.


Four things to watch out for during decision-making

Chip and Dan Heath are brothers, and they also happen to be two leading American academics and authors of four best-selling books. In their book, Decisive the brothers talk about four villains of decision making and the strategies to combat them.

Here are the four villains they talk about to give you a taster from the book:


#1: Narrow Framing

This happens when we narrow our decision down to only two choices. Simply widening our options will improve our potential of making a better decision. We can tend to ask, “Should I break up with my partner or not?”, but a better frame is “What are the ways I could make this relationship better?”.

Our brains like to keep things simple and sometimes we simplify our options by eliminating all but two or three. Before you start culling, start asking what else? Get a list down of options and then sit with the options for a bit. We will most likely go for the options we have tried before, are going to be popular or are safe, so to ensure continuous improvement and innovation, consider all ideas and ask a few other people for some more options. Remember options, not their thoughts on what you should decide.


#2: Confirmation Bias

“When people have the opportunity to collect information from the world, they are more likely to select the information that supports their pre-existing attitudes, beliefs, and actions.” We pretend we want the truth, yet all we want is reassurance so we go looking for only the data that will confirm our bias, to begin with. The way to overcome is to reality test our assumptions by being willing to test them.


#3: Short-Term Emotion

“I’m never emotional”, said no one ever. Humans are emotional beings, humans are not slugs. Ha. Take the high road, don’t get into an argument with that voice or with people for that matter. Get some space and set a time where you will agree not to make a decision. Allow for information to be attained during that time also. If you know that you tend to rely on the gut instincts, consider getting a group of people around you that can stay objective help you make a decision.


#4: Overconfidence

“People think they know more than they do about how the future will unfold.” To overcome this, Chip and Dan Heath advise that we prepare to be wrong. Allow yourself to set up tripwires that will enable you to revisit the decision if things go wrong.


Get curious about this. What are the areas of your leadership decision-making process where the villains may turn up? Next time you enter a decision-making process try to notice the villains and combat them as you go.