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CEOs are busy making decisions. Leaders make dozens of decisions every day, many of which can have major and lasting consequences for the success of their companies and teams. Whether it’s the decision to change a key position, take a chance on a new market, or try a different product line, great CEOs know that decision making often requires a nuanced and thoughtful approach.
Most leaders do not take the decision-making process lightly. And sometimes the fear of making the wrong decision can lead leaders to make no decision at all. When looking at a wide range of possible solutions, leaders can feel stuck. That’s when a feeling of decision fatigue can set in.
Decision fatigue is at the heart of ambivalence, and while it may not be preventable, the good news is that there are solutions to overcome it. Below are tried and true methods — from some of the best leaders I’ve met in my career — to combat decision fatigue.
Related: Decision fatigue is real. Here’s how to overcome it.
1. Build a foundation
Decision fatigue occurs when leaders fail to use strategy as their guideline. Before leaders can make a decision, it is important to first have a strong foundation by defining the company’s mission, vision, values, purpose and operating principles. When several options are then presented, it becomes crystal clear which choice best fits the company’s mission.
Successful leaders don’t just create the company’s principles and values and then post them on the wall; they use them to evaluate every decision they make. When making a decision, they weigh whether the outcome supports the company’s mission and respects its principles and values. Mentioning these principles also creates clarity for employees. When employees are able to apply the company’s values to their own decision-making, it creates alignment throughout the organization.
2. Identify your biases by connecting with peers
It can be difficult to identify blind spots and check for yourself how bias plays a role in the decision-making process. Having a trusted group of smart, supportive individuals who can offer diverse perspectives empowers leaders to challenge prejudice and gain new insights. Learning to ask for and accept feedback is one of the biggest hurdles – and most important – of being a leader.
One commonality among all the great CEOs I’ve known is that they want to become better leaders. Instead of getting defensive right away, the best CEOs tend to take different viewpoints. Even if they disagree with someone’s assessment, they ask questions and investigate with curiosity and humility. They leave their prejudices at the door and go into these conversations with an open mind. These leaders work hard to avoid confirmation bias or present information in a way that tends toward the desired outcome. When CEOs get the chance to talk honestly about issues with colleagues facing the same challenges, their peers help them frame what the WHERE problem.
3. Create space to make a decision
Effective CEOs know that it is critical to delegate decisions to their team and empower them to make decisions that align with their strategy. But some decisions can only be made by the CEO. And if that’s the case, it’s okay to take time and space to make a decision. I used to think it was a weakness to say, “I need more time,” but now I’ve learned that it’s a strength. Taking the time to carefully consider the solution with fresh eyes always leads to a better result.
4. Understand that no two decisions are the same
Part of what makes the business environment so challenging and exciting is that no two situations are ever exactly the same. Great CEOs judge each situation by the company’s mission based on current factors rather than relying solely on what worked or didn’t work last time.
Related: This australiabusinessblog.com Shares Her Surprising Secret to Fighting Decision Fatigue
The stakes are high. In this current environment of inflation and economic uncertainty, against a strong labor market, it has never been more difficult, nor more important, to be competent at making decisions. Leaders can be afraid of making the wrong decision. But decision making is not always black or white – there can be an infinite number of right decisions. Instead of thinking there is a right or wrong decision, effective leaders think there might be a better or best solution.
Much of the success of a decision is associated with applying rigor and commitment up front and then fully believing in the decision and making an effort to ensure that it is successful. It can be tempting to abandon a decision when things don’t go quite as planned. But successful leaders are the ones who can endure the noise, fear, and decision fatigue to get the team around the mission and move the company forward.