top of page

5 Ideas to Consider on How to Become a Better Decision Maker

The ability to make decisions is a crucial skill for all of us living in the 21st century. The world continues to change at break neck speed and we can no longer rely on the 19th century model of “command and control” management. It’s simply impossible to adapt to the myriad of decisions that come before us every week with a model that requires “asking the boss” every time. So it’s simply not practical anymore. And more importantly, relying on the boss to make decisions is the surest way to sap the life and energy out of every team member. Being able to make decisions in the moment makes it possible for us to adapt to new situations as they happen.

How does someone become a better decision maker? It would be disingenuous to offer a simple formula; however, we can offer these five ideas to consider:

1. Notice your emotions. Breath. Think.


We find that the best way to do this is to:

  1. make a conscious decision to start noticing your emotions,

  2. keep a simple list of emotions that you notice throughout a day, and

  3. do not try to change your emotion… just acknowledge it.

This is hard to do, especially those of us who are a bit self-critical. Resist the temptation to say something like, “I shouldn’t be having this reaction or this emotion right now.” Just notice the emotion.

And then what? Well, after you notice the emotion, often times you don’t need to do anything. It will dissipate quickly just by acknowledging it. If it remains, then think about what the situation is that has you reacting the way you are reacting.

For instance, if you’re not in the best emotional state to make a decision, you’ll be prone to being led by anger, fear, or jealousy. When it comes time to make a decision and you’re not in the right headspace to do so, give yourself a moment to regather your thoughts. Take a deep breath in, count to ten, then focus on the decisions that you have to make. This quick exercise in clarity allows us to engage our prefrontal cortex so that we can make the best possible decision.

2. Don’t focus on past failures and success


Mistakes and achievements are something that most of us have to deal with on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean that we should let that deter us from making a decision. If you focus on your failures, you will be too afraid to take a risk. Leaders make decisions even when they are worried about making a mistake. This is the definition of courage.

“Courage is not a virtue or value among other personal values like love or fidelity. It is the foundation that underlies and gives reality to all other virtues and personal values. Without courage our love pales into mere dependency. Without Courage our fidelity becomes conformism. The word courage comes from the same stem as the French word couer, meaning “heart”. Thus just as one’s heart, by pumping blood to one’s arms, legs, and brain enables all the other physical organs to function, so courage makes possible all the psychological virtues. Without courage other values wither away into mere facsimiles of virtue.”

~ Rollo May

On the other hand, if you focus solely on your successes in the past, you will start to overreach, which may lead to a harsh reality check. You need to see your achievements and failures as lessons but not a guarantee of future outcomes; think about what you did wrong and what you did right in previous decisions and combine those elements together in your next decision.

3. Always cross-examine your data


Decisions should be made based on research and empirical data as much as possible. This necessitates reliable sources of information. Be diligent in examining your information sources. Always cross-reference your data with multiple sources. You need to keep an open and unbiased mind to ensure that you always have the most accurate and up-to-date information. If your decision is based on faulty data, it will lead to inefficiency and complications, so it’s better to get it right the first time that to regret when it’s all said and done.

4. Take feedback but cut out the noise


Humans are social creatures, which means that we base most of our decisions, thoughts, and feelings on those around us. While this has its merits when it comes to team building and collaboration, we must keep in mind that people have their own agendas and opinions that may not be the best for the group as a whole. The best strategy for uncovering any personal preferences and biases is to ask a lot of open-ended questions.

Keep asking “What” and “Why” questions until you’ve fully understood the various perspectives. This doesn’t mean that you should disregard getting feedbacks and evaluations from other team members, but you should make sure that what they're suggesting is actually for the good of the group.

5. Trust yourself


When we have to make a big decision, it’s understandable that we might be anxious or even scared about the consequences of our actions. Yet, it doesn’t mean that you should reverse your decision as soon as something starts to go wrong. Therefore, you need to stick to your decision and make adjustments along the way rather than turning back on your words and your promises at the first sign of failure. A good leader doesn’t fear failure as much as they fear the lack of opportunities to grow and learn from both good and unfortunate decisions. The key here is to work hard at acknowledging your emotions so that they don’t cloud your judgment. Here’s the thing: we tend to know what to do and what decision to make. Trust yourself and make it!



Phoenix Summary:

This article informs the read to consider 5 ideas, that will help them become better decision makes in the this fast paced 21st century world we live in.

Key take away:

We tend to know what to do and what decision to make. Trust yourself and make it!

About the author(s):

Tom Willis is a Co-Founder and Partner with Phoenix Performance Partners. He had the great honor of serving as CEO for Cornerstone; a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers; and an engineer with the Intel Corporation. His life is all about helping others uncover their talents so they can reach their unlimited potential and their organization can thrive.

| Linkedin: Tom

Brad Zimmerman is a Co-Founder and Partner with Phoenix Performance Partners. Zimmerman turned to organizational coaching more than 26 years ago following a successful career in sales and operations. Today, he helps businesses, nonprofits and other organizations develop cultures that transform work environments so people grow and the organizations thrive.

| Linkedin: Brad


Subscribe to our newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page