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As a leader or manager, decisions are an everyday occurrence.  They are something from which you cannot not escape. Those both above and below you expect you to make them.  Have you ever been frustrated by a manager that couldn't make a decision or continually made them but seemed to always make everything worse?  The amount of stress that comes with decisions can be enormous.  Knowing that your decisions can have an effect on people's lives adds value to the point of needing a process to make those difficult decisions.  Of course you can never escape those that you have to make during a crisis, which come from experience.  However, most important decisions require some form of strategic thinking and information processing.

Years back, during a mentoring session, I asked my mentor for some insight on good, solid decision-making.  This individual was the director of a huge agency with over 13,000 employees.  The decisions that he had to make on a daily basis were enormous and affected the lives of thousands each day.  I was amazed that most of his decisions were very good ones. I wanted to know how he always seemed to make them.  Although he admitted that he sometimes missed the mark, he told me that he employed a three-step model for good decisions and it had proven to work for him.  As I sat there with expectation, what I heard seemed so simple, yet so deep.  He told me that I would need to think on what he had told me and expand on each process.

Step #1 - Determine the Right Thing to Do: 

There is never a right way to do the wrong thing.  This seems simple on the surface.  You should always gather as much information as possible and include as many of your staff as possible.  Get as many different perspectives as possible both positive and negative.  Think about your decisions and how they will affect the situation and/or people several layers deep.  Remember, an action brings a reaction.  So, as a seasoned leader, you should anticipate the effects of that decision on a larger scale.  Each decision will never be wonderful for all involved.  However, you should take a utilitarian approach, for the greater good of all.  Once you gather and analyze all the information, perspectives, and possible outcome scenarios, now you're ready for the next step.

Step #2 - Make the Decision: 

Pull the trigger.  Have a plan of how you will carry out the details.  What resources will be needed? What are the timetables for the plan of action? How will you measure and control for accountability? What are the expected outcomes? Although you remain responsible for the decision, delegate some responsibility and authority to your staff to make the necessary decisions for implementation.  During this step, you must continually measure the effects the decision is having on people and systems.  If you have data, this makes this analysis easier and much more effective.

Step #3 - Be Willing to Openly Explain Why You Made the Decision: 

This is probably the most important step in the process.  The outcomes of this step are considered in the first step.  Actually, it will drive the first step. If you are willing to open explain why you made the decision, your transparency will increase your credibility as a leader.  This willingness to openly explain and be transparent is the reason for the thoroughness that should occur during the first step.   This doesn't mean that you won't never be criticized for your decision.  However, you have the surety of knowing why you made the decision and that you are willing to and can explain it to anyone at any time.

Leadership is about influencing others toward a goal.  As a leader, you must be willing to make decisions.  Using this process will lighten the stress when it comes time for your next decision.  You can use this same process in your everyday life.  Just be willing to openly explain why you made the decision.  Gather as much information, perspectives, and feedback as possible and then pull the trigger.

Determine the Right Thing to Do

Make the Decision

Be Willing to Openly Explain Your Decision

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