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Decision-Making Skills Every Manager Needs

The role of a manager is not an easy one; it requires a particular set of skills, including leadership, communication, problem-solving, and more. One essential component of management is making decisions. But learning to make good decisions can feel daunting. Instead of approaching it as one big skill, it helps to break down decision-making into a set of smaller skills. This way you can level up your decision-making game more quickly. To help you do this, here are five decision-making skills to focus on.


Timeliness


Making a decision at the right time can mean the difference between a strategic win and a missed opportunity. If you take too long to gather information and deliberate, you can waste resources and lose momentum. On the other hand, if you move too quickly to a conclusion, you risk acting without critical information or overlooking a crucial aspect of the process. It's important to be thoughtful about the time it takes to gather information, consider the situation, involve others, and ultimately reach a resolution so that you can optimize the decision-making timeliness. 


When weighing whether to move forward or continue deliberating, consider the implications of getting this decision wrong. If you can live with it, then perhaps moving to action is a better use of time and energy than staying in the exploration phase.


Emotional Control


Recognizing and interpreting your emotions is a key skill for effective decision-making. Relying solely on emotions or gut feeling often leads to regrettable choices. Ignoring emotions completely in favor of logic also can result in unfortunate outcomes. Emotions should be viewed as valuable input rather than a primary or insignificant decision factor.

When you feel strongly or uncomfortable about a specific path or choice, pay attention. The key is to regard these feelings as valuable input. Our emotions signal what’s important to us. Consider it guidance, just as you would any other advisor. Take the time to comprehend what emotions reveal about available options and what truly matters to you. 


Information Discernment


Just as we must understand and interpret our emotions, we must do the same with data and information. It’s easy to get distracted by the quantity of information available. The key is to identify what is truly relevant and important, avoiding the trap of information overload. Quality decisions rely on having the right information and interpreting it accurately. Remember, more information doesn't always lead to better outcomes. 


Instead of weighing all information equally, be clear about your criteria. This will help you determine what to pay attention to and what is noise. While it's important to acknowledge other information that comes in, maintaining focus on what truly matters is key.


Big Picture Thinking


It's incredibly easy to get caught up in the details of a decision and lose sight of the broader context within which it's being made. Having the ability to step back and see the larger picture is absolutely crucial, especially for more senior level managers. Sometimes called whole-system thinking, holistic thinking, or system-wide thinking, the skill of looking beyond the immediate moment or issue and making decisions that align with the larger context and organizational goals, rather than in isolation, is invaluable. 


To cultivate big picture thinking, remember to ask how this decision fits within the larger organizational context (strategy, goals, industry) and what this decision might lead to in the future. These types of questions prompt us to rise above the details and take a broader perspective.


Collaborative Processing


As managers, we’re often tasked with making decisions with others. This requires the ability to work with colleagues, clients, and other stakeholders to get the best thinking in the room. It starts with identifying the right individuals to engage with. This ensures that you don't confine yourself to an echo chamber of like-minded or “yes” people. You must also cultivate the ability to approach conversations with genuine curiosity. Being able to foster a safe space for people to share, and to truly listen without judgment, can be the difference between robust thinking and a collaborative facade.


When engaging with others, asking open-ended questions like, "Can you walk me through how you arrived at that conclusion?" or "Could you share more of why you think that?” These types of questions encourage others to explain their thought processes without feeling interrogated. 


To enhance your decision-making skills, it's helpful to pinpoint the specific area you’d benefit from improving. This is true for yourself and your team members. Perhaps you need to improve time management in order to make decisions more deliberately and thoughtfully. Or you may need to be more attentive to your emotions, understanding their origins without disregarding them completely or allowing them to cloud your judgment. Additionally, honing your ability to discern what information is truly significant and what can be disregarded could be a game changer. Elevating your big-picture thinking by contextualizing decisions within a broader framework and comprehending their impact on the future is always beneficial. Lastly, fostering collaboration with others to leverage the collective wisdom for decision-making may be an area worth exploring. By approaching decision-making as a series of smaller skills rather than a singular skill, you are able to improve your decision-making faster, leading to better outcomes for everyone.


Listen to the entire episode HERE to learn more about conflict management.


Guest Bonus: Decision-Making Skills Tip Sheet


Get the Full Episode Guide with questions for reflecting on your skillset and tips to help yourself or a team member improve the specific skill needed to become a better decision-maker.


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The Modern Manager is a leadership podcast for rockstar managers who want to create a working environment where people thrive, and great work gets done.


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