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How do you make better decisions?

It is one of your main jobs as a CEO or Executive Director.   You are called to make dozens to hundreds of decisions a week depending on your organization’s size and activities.

To improve decision-making, first, let’s look at how the…

Human Brain Processes Decisions

Important decisions start in the ‘pre-frontal’ cortex (also known as ‘executive functioning’ in humans).  This part of the brain sorts data and looks at information that is currently appearing.  My friend Christine Kane explains this eloquently in her book the Soul Sourced Entrepreneur.

Essentially, the brain acts as a super-computer, considering this, considering that, processing the decision.  As a result, you might get your fingers involved and start googling.  Perhaps you ask others for advice.  The mind quickly weighs options.

It considers what possible outcomes could be and mines for patterns it recognizes.  These thoughts cause physical sensations in the body, sometimes pleasant and sometimes very uncomfortable.

From the sensations, you create stories, you interpret, and you project into the future.  Unfortunately, the stories and projections are often based in past experience or future worries.  Danger zone!   From here, it is easy to make decisions based on past patterns or projected fears that do not apply to today’s circumstance!

It’s complicated and fast and it is hard to slow down enough to watch the mind moment to moment making decisions.  With this fast processing, sometimes you make decisions too fast and sometimes too slow.

Is it possible to harness the power of our amazing minds to make decisions better and ‘in time’?

To gain insight, let’s looking carefully at the process.

Decisions Made Too Slowly

When you make decisions too slowly, you get caught in a loop of analyzing something over and over.  You hope more clarifying information will come.

If no decision is made, your mind tends to spin in these cycles.  The engine keeps running.

Open loops steal energy.  The mind requires energy to continue cycling – energy that can’t be used for anything else.  Can you feel the weight of unmade decisions?

You may feel exhausted by the end of the day.

Look closely at your experience.

What decisions are ‘hanging’ for you?  Are there loops are you not closing? Commit to closing the open loops by a set date and then watch what happens to your energy. 🙂  There actually are no ‘bad’ decisions.  More on that when we meet…

Decisions Made Too Quickly

Are you prone to making decisions too quickly without due consideration for what the outcomes maybe?  Even if you make decisions slowly, you often don’t understand the full repercussions of decisions – due to our limited view.

Depending on your conative build, (the natural pattern that emerges for you when you are striving), quick decision making may feel most natural for you.

This can be a trap for new CEOs and Executive Directors trying to establish their leadership.

Big decisions, not well considered, can create big problems.  Although you may have a ‘gut’ feeling about something, which is very important to acknowledge, it may not be quite enough to make the best decision.

Has this ever happened to you?

You announce a decision to the team, realize you decided too quickly, and then you don’t want to retreat, for fear of looking ‘indecisive’.  Trap!  Danger zone!

Finding Your Flow in Decision-Making

Better decision making has everything to do with time and timing, knowing yourself and your organization well.

Do you have a structure and cadence for making big decisions, to move forward, not losing opportunities and still feel confident in the decisions you make?

When faced with big decisions, avoid the re-active loop, making decisions too fast or too slow.

Big decisions might include re-organizing the company, purchasing land, committing to a multi-year project, starting a capital campaign, creating a new position or hiring for a critical position.

Questions to Ask to Get Out of Reactive Loops:

For big decisions, slow down and ask yourself critical questions that raise your awareness. They could be:

  1. Do I have a clear shared vision for the organization now?   Does it clearly benefit the community and create lasting value?  Is it shared by the board and staff?  By when do I want to achieve this?

If the GPS pin is not intentionally set, you may make decisions that end your organization up in places you would rather not be as a result of chasing money, chasing offers for help, bending to funders or politician’s desires.  You get the idea!

  1. Am I honoring who I am, how I work and my organization’s current capacity?

We help clients better understand their natural strengths when working using the Kolbe A Index.

My Index reflects setting up systems is not my strength.  If I say ‘yes’ to a project that requires this, that capacity needs to be firmly established in-house. The timing needs to be right.

More questions…
  1. What matters most to me as a leader and to our organization?

Do you know the outcomes are you really going for?  When you leave this position or retire, what do you want to be sure will have happened here?

  1. Is love or is it fear driving you toward saying ‘yes’?

Usually, if you stop for just a moment and ask this question, the answer is often immediately clear.

Love is a deep desire to create something positive.  Fear shows up in many ways: fear of not having enough money, fear of what other’s think, fear of failure.

If fear is driving you, pause. Do you really want to operate from here?

Taking time to answer these questions can make decision making so much easier.

What are other important questions for you to ask?

Intentional Practice Makes Decision-Making Better

Getting skilled at decision making is critical for effective leadership.  Yet, it is an art, that requires practice and support.

Would you like to further explore better decision making?

If you are a nonprofit CEO or Executive Director with annual revenues close to or over $5 million, reach out to me.  I will invite you to closed-door Executive Round Table on the Art of Better Decision-Making September 16th at lunch time. 

Keep sharpening your decision-making blade.  Close open loops, ask the right questions and find your stride.  You will come to love the art of decision-making.

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