I Need a Decision Now!

in Decision

You will probably have come across something like this in your career: you need someone to make a decision on important matters and are being told to be patient! While patience is a virtue and everybody procrastinates on some occasions, it is crucial not to confuse procrastination with thinking time.

Thinking time is the quiet reflection space we create for ourselves, the space in which we consider our options, the pros and cons prior to making a decision (and our best decisions often come from taking time out for a period of quiet contemplation). The bane of all decision making - procrastination - is more related to our personal fear of whether things will happen or not happen. It often goes like this: 'It's only a small job so I can do it later' and 'Oh my god, If I make a wrong decision in this case, I'll be in line for a major reprimand later.'

At the office there are always opportunities when we want to get a decision from someone, maybe from our boss, who is so busy with dozens of other decisions, so the decision we require keeps getting delayed. Here are a few questions you can use to help or coach someone make a good decision.

  • 'What specific information do you need to make a decision today? ' - This will assist the person to think about what is required, not what you are asking or offering and helps them be more response-able for their thinking process.
  • 'If you had already made the best decision on this subject, what information would you have considered to come to your decision?' - This puts them in the position of having already made the decision and made it well. Acting 'AS IF' is a very effective thinking technique, not just for making decisions.
  • 'Just so I understand, could you please let me know what stops you from making a decision/approving my decision?' - This helps them to unblock their thinking and may draw out sensitive information or even a blind spot.
  • 'If your boss or your mentor was advising you of what decision to make that was best for all stakeholders, what would s/he tell you?' - This invites the person to consider what someone else with a higher level of authority would appreciate and disapprove of. It is useful to remember that people often comply with authority, so this is a way of using deferred authority to assist them in their decision making process.

If you look at it from the outside, then a reluctance to make a decision is a decision in itself. If we want to support people in making better quality decisions - and, ultimately, get the answers we need - we must provide them with enough thinking time and space to allow them to come up with the right decision themselves.

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Scott Watson is the Founder and Managing Director of Summit and author of 'Win Every Time - Essential lessons for existing and emerging leaders' which is endorsed by Professor John Thompson, Professor at the University of Huddersfield. Dirk Bansch is Head of Learning & Development at Summit Consulting & Training Ltd. More information is available on the Management Training web site. Also check our Blog.

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I Need a Decision Now!

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This article was published on 2010/04/15