Difficult Decisions

Have you ever thought about how many decisions you make in a single day?

I suggest you try to count them.

For many, the first decision is to turn off the alarm and get up, or hit the snooze button and get ten more minutes of sleep.  The next decision might be to either let the dogs out and get the paper, or shower and get ready for work.

Two decisions just as your feet hit the bedroom floor. At that rate, you are looking at about 500 decisions each day.

I think that is a lot of deciding to do.

Difficulties of Decisions

In the scheme of your day, those first two decisions are relatively simple.  They impact no one other than yourself unless you keep hitting the snooze button and are late for work.

As your day progresses, however, the difficulty of the choices you will need to make will invariably increase.  And within any given day, you will likely face at least one decision that will be agonizingly difficult to make.

It is these types of decisions that cause problems. Although they vary from decisionmaker to decisionmaker, everyone has some level of decisions that will cause them anguish, to lose sleep, and cause serious stress.

Choosing to return an irate client’s call, confronting an underperforming colleague, or asking to change project teams all require significant energy.   To hire a new employee, fire an existing employee, or decide to promote someone can all be debilitating.

And with these difficult decisions occupying your mind, simple choices often become all the harder to make.  Without warning, un-made decisions begin to pile up, and you find yourself in a position where no decisions get made.

This is why having a strategy for making difficult decisions becomes absolutely necessary.

Making Difficult Decisions

We need to take the “overwhelming” nature out of difficult decisions by following a step-by-step process to arrive at a direction.  Granted, not all difficult decisions are the same.  The complexity of decisions varies dramatically depending on the level of uncertainty, the complexity of the facts, the risks involved,  the number of potential alternatives, and how people will respond to the decision.

Here is a series of suggested steps to be used in making decisions.

  1. Evaluate who must be involved in the decision-making process. Is this a decision that can be made within the four walls of your office, or do you need to bring in other stakeholders?
    2. Gather all the facts.  Don’t rely on assumptions, but dig for all the facts, especially from those who may not benefit from your decision.
  2. List all conceivable outcomes based on the facts. The longer this list, the better your decision will be. At this point, you may want the stakeholders to offer other alternatives that are not obvious to you.
  3. Explore your options. Evaluate the feasibility, risks, and implications for each outcome. Involve all the stakeholders for their input.
  4. Pick the best choice. Many times the selection is obvious.
  5. Take a breath. Resist the impulse to move ahead. Take a step back and look objectively at your entire process and final decision.  Does your decision “seem” right? If not, start over.
  6. Implement. Communicate efficiently and effectively. Your decision was difficult, but you have a process to back it up, and through the process, a decision was made for the best of the business.

The Bible

The Bible has much to offer about decisions.

  1. Stakeholders – Proverbs 11:14

For lack of guidance a nation falls,
but victory is won through many advisers.

  1. Facts – Proverbs 18:13

To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame.

  1. Alternatives – Proverbs 14:15

The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps.

  1. Options – Proverbs 21:5

The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.

  1. Pick a solution – Proverbs 3:5-6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

  1. Take a breath – Proverbs 19:2

Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

  1. Move on – Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Decision making is one of the core competencies of all leadership.  It’s not about the decisions you make; it is about how you make decisions and how you move forward after making the decision.

The Bible has an important role in your decisions, and you will discover this process of decision making is much easier once you involve God.