How to Make Smart Decisions

I just returned from an amazingly productive week at the SHRM 2013 Annual Conference in Chicago, where I presented a SUPER SUNDAY workshop, Fearless Leadership: How to Make Smart Decisions in Less Than 60-Seconds to an audience of nearly 2000 human resources leaders, managers and professionals.

SHRM 2013 Annual Conference Attendees learned why making effective decisions is critical to our success. We explored how even the best leaders are challenged by the sense of isolation that accompanies making decisions which impact shareholders, employees, vendors and customers within an organization.

When I arrived home, I found a well-timed message in my inbox from Rob Hatch admonishing me for making too many decisions.

The e-mail was aimed at the tens of thousands of business professionals following Rob and his partner, Chris Brogan’s great work at Human Business Works. In it, Rob pointed out how overworked our brains are from processing the myriad information we encounter every day.

It’s true. There is less time for thoughtful decisioning these days.

In our always connected, multi-tasking world, career, family and professional development commitments all compete for our attention. Chris McChesney, author of the New York Times’ best-selling book, The Four Disciplines of Execution calls this the “whirlwind”. He describes it as all the work, energy and attention needed just to get through the day. The whirlwind competes with our ability to make decisions and execute strategic initiatives.

So how can you find ways to focus on what truly matters?

While, there’s no simple fix, there are three immediate actions you can take to conquer the whirlwind and make smarter decisions:

1. Stop Multi Tasking

The best decision makers are mindful of what’s going on in their organization. and present with their team. They combine creative and strategic thinking to proactively address issues. However, creativity and strategy require focus. And focus is compromised by multi-tasking.  Put down your Smartphone or notebook to give each task, person, call or meeting your full attention. You will see your ability to focus (and thus, to make smarter decisions) increase quickly.

2. Build “White Space” into Your Schedule

You have a lot on your plate. And you may believe working harder will help you accomplish it all faster. If only it were that simple!  Unfortunately, working 80 hours a week, moving 80 miles an hour won’t decrease the amount of work you have to do. As a matter of fact, not planning down time (or “white space” as I call it) in your day works against you.  Work smarter, rather than harder. It’s just as important to schedule open times on your calendar as it is to plan for calls, meetings and travel. The creative part of your being needs that white space. Without it, your ability to experiment with new ideas or plan for the future diminishes. Those ideas may help you devise ways to work more efficiently.

3. Collaborate

An old friend used to say “anything with two heads is a monster”. And it’s true, as a leader, you must understand your vision and drive toward that goal. However, every decision doesn’t have to (and should not) be made alone.  Would it be valuable if you could make more informed decisions, having examined every sensible perspective? Whole Brain Thinking as it’s called, allows us to make better decisions by leveraging more than just one perspective to arrive at our conclusion. But it can’t happen without collaborating with someone we trust who will give it to us straight. The President of the United States has a Cabinet, comprised of handpicked colleagues who advise him in specialized areas. So should you!

Our lives have many moving parts. Interested in making SMARTER decisions so you get better results? You can increase your focus and creativity by doing less multi-tasking and adding MORE white space to your workday. By combining that creativity with diverse perspectives from your “cabinet” of trusted advisors and a lil’ common sense, you will be on your way to making SMARTER and more informed decisions!

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