The Decision Making Process
Leadership is learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. For example, leaders can make several important decisions about an issue in the time it takes others to understand the question.
Many people wonder how leaders know how to make the best decisions, often under immense pressure.
The most successful leaders are instinctual decision makers. Having done it so many times throughout their careers, they become immune to the pressure associated with decision making and extremely intuitive about the process of making the most strategic and best decisions.
Many people ask me why I decided to leave the legal profession for the 4 years I was out in the business world.
I have always felt that there were certain qualities I possessed which will stand in good stead in the business world. Decision making ability is one of them. I am able to analyze and decide quite quickly at ease and once I decide, I never look back.
Growing up, business was always what I envisaged my career would be and what I thought I would thrive on. I decided on Law as a calling only on matriculation day.
So the Business world for me was, literally, unfinished business.
I like to think, purely because I suspect I suffer from a mild form of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, that I am both a Doer and a Thinker. A forceful Alpha personality, an almost anal obsession for details, a borderline OCD inclination and an almost compulsive need to move thought into action could, I thought, be good things for the business world.
Or it could be disastrous. I needed to know.
I learnt that strong decision making skills was indeed the cornerstone of a business mind and what is required of senior management.
A strong ability to make quick, analytical, rational decisions on a daily basis which provokes others into action, clarity of thinking, fortitude and resilience, and a gentle dose of charisma makes a good business leader.
Some intelligence cells both of the IQ and EQ kind are usually needed. Industry knowledge was of course key but that can be picked up with diligence and a willingness to dive in and get one’s hands dirty right up to the elbows.
It is not rocket science if you already have the DNA.
Decision making affects every aspects of our life apart from one’s career. Some people just find it stomach wrenching to make decisions and are stressed into paralysis. They know the answers but can’t make the decisions.
So here are some very instinctual and visceral decision making tips from a very personal perspective (not from any management books or articles):
1. Clear your mind. Focus is key.
2. Make sure the facts are at your fingertips. Never decide if you don’t understand the facts. Any aspect of it.
3. Be relentless until the facts are crystal clear to you. Any decision made before reaching that zone would inevitably be flawed.
4. Analyze and internalize the facts and weigh the options. Put them in boxes.
5. Think about and understand the consequences of every decision you are making. For every action, there will be a reaction.
6. Always assume you will be challenged in any decision you make and think how you will stand your ground. Construct the arguments in your mind against the potential Heckler. This is a critical phase.
7. When you challenge yourself and formulate arguments in your head, sometimes a moment of lucidity comes.
8. Then take a deep breath and decide.
9. If you are a man of faith and the decision is a big one, say a silent prayer to ask for wisdom and fortitude. You don’t need much more.
10. Once you have decided, be steadfast, never falter and never look back. No regrets, no surrender.
Caveat – If someone can show you how fundamentally wrong your decision was, never be too proud to accept that you are wrong and to reverse your decision.
But that should happen only once every ten years.
After coming back into the legal profession albeit into a management role, I found the decision making role somewhat reduced. Strategic thought and execution was now more the key.
In order that the blade does not turn rusty too fast, I set myself some daily mental exercises and regimes to follow.
For the body, I now have a regime of eating more healthily, lower carbs and 5 days a week at the Gym.
For the mind and decision making process, I now wake up to make the first important decision of the day every day . I try to either have breakfast or lunch – not both. So I need to decide.
My metabolism and daily activities is such that having 2 of the meals will add on more calories than I can burn (even with the gym) so it’s a losing battle.
Taking only either meal with a good workout in the morning means that I’m off to a good start.
So the first decision every day – Breakfast or Lunch ?
Fact – some conventional wisdom is that if you take a light breakfast, you have a better workout as you feel stronger and have an energy boost. So you work out better and harder.
Fact – A couple of hours right after a good workout, your body is still in a enhanced burn mode and perhaps having the meal as lunch could burn up the calories better.
Fact – Lunch would incorporate some social bonding with colleagues and work related obligations with clients. Taking lunch seems to make more sense.
Fact – Taking breakfast would mean that I can work through lunch which is usually very productive.
Fact – On the other hand, it’s not bad to step out and rejuvenate your mind before working again after lunch . But there could be the post lunch stupor.
Decisions decisions decisons.
There are pros and cons.
Facts are clear and boxes are arranged and ticked.
Consequences are considered.
Stand ground arguments are prepared and rehearsed in the mind.
Breakfast or Lunch ?
Lunch or Breakfast ?
Skip both ?
Take a cheat day and have both?
Breakfast or Lunch?