If you are a leader, you make decisions, large and small, every day. Many are straightforward and take very little time, but if you have been a leader for very long at all, you have had to face a complex, multi-faceted and difficult problem, where the decision was far from easy or obvious.
Often when we get in that situation, is it hard to lift our head up to look at how to make the decision, because we are so consumed by the problem/decision itself. So today, when perhaps you aren’t facing that tough-as-nails decision, let’s look at some steps or a process to help the next time you do face one.
Consider More Options
Often hard decisions are hard because we don’t feel like we have any real choice, or we don’t like the choices we have. When the situation is complex and the outcome important, make sure you have looked at several options. Sometimes the new options you identify are similar to others; but the small differences might lead to significant differences in the outcome.
Get Other Perspectives
If you have a tough problem, ask others for their input. Specifically, don’t just ask, “what would you do?” or even worse, “what would you do if you were me?”; instead ask people to discuss and explore the problem from their perspective. Ask them what they see as the issues, the opportunities or the significant parts of the problem. You can ask your team, your spouse or your neighbor. There is always another angle to consider when looking at the situation. The more angles you have considered and seen, the more options you will identify and the better you will understand the implications of whatever decision you choose.
Consider Both Short and Long Term Implications
Think about the decision both in terms of the expedient, immediate result and also the long term. When we focus on only one of these two time horizons we often leave unintended consequences in our wake. By looking at both perspectives, we may significantly clarify the situation and often the best decision becomes clearer.
Sleep on It
Your experience and the research show this to be effective. Most really hard decisions, certainly the type we are talking about here, don’t require an answer within five minutes, so don’t try to make it that fast. Gather some information and do the three steps mentioned above, and go over those thoughts and perhaps your notes right before going to bed. Then let your subconscious mind work on the solution. Doing this gives you mental time to relax and not over-react and it also gives your magnificently powerful subconscious mind time to work on the solution for you.
Map Against Your Values
Before you make your final decision, make sure you consider it against your values – personal and organizational. If the decision doesn’t align closely with your values, or even conflicts with them, you have a major red flag! Considering your values can be done early when looking at options to truly consider, and at the end of your thought process to make sure you don’t make a major error.
Pray About It
You may use different words here, or you may not believe in this step. For me and many leaders I know, including this step to seek guidance from a Higher source is critical to ultimate decision-making success. Actually this step can help with every other step mentioned above if you add this to your process.
There is likely nothing here you haven’t heard of or perhaps even done. The value here may be less in the novelty than in the reminder or the idea of doing all of these things consciously rather than haphazardly or inconsistently. The decision will still be yours, but these steps will help you make a more informed, effective and conscious decision – and because of that, likely a better one.

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