12 Crucial Questions to Better Decision-Making

Decisions fascinate me. Occasionally they come easily. Sometimes they are difficult. Oftentimes they’re stressful. Some have huge implications. Most have a variety of influencing factors. Some decisions turn out perfectly. Some blow up entirely.

Leaders are responsible for making important decisions that by nature aren’t easy. In fact, in a certain sense the essence of one’s leadership is the sum of the decisions he or she has made over time. Unfortunately, many leaders struggle with the decision-making process. I’ve written before about the need for leaders to have the courage to step up and make the tough calls. I’ve also shared an insightful decision-making process I’ve found.

Fortunately, decision-making skills are a lot like public speaking skills. The more you step up when others shy away, the greater your influence will become.

Below, I’d like to include a variety of factors I consider when making decisions that will have significant organizational impact. These are factors I often use – and encourage those I’m responsible for to use as well.

Decision-maker – Are you the right person to make the decision?

If you are not the right person to make the decision, hand it off to the person who is. If you are the right person, accept the responsibility even if it’s difficult.

Leader Responsibility – What outcome are you directly responsible for as it relates to this decision?

Decisions (and scope) can get complicated very quickly. Always maintain clarity on what you are trying to accomplish. Getting sidetracked can really hurt your influence.

Boss – What is most important to the boss?

Filter your decisions through the lens of your boss’s priorities. If you are in alignment, great. If not, check yourself. One question I’ve begun asking my boss each year is, “Which of my projects is worth the most money at year-end bonus time?” This enables me to make appropriate decisions along the way.

Organizational Values – What would be most consistent with the organization’s core values?

One of the main benefits of well articulated core values is their use in making tough decisions. (That’s why it’s so important for organizational values to be meaningful, visible and practical.) When in doubt, make a decision that is best supported by the organization’s values.

Customer Experience – What would delight the customers the most?

If the customers don’t care about a particular decision, you may be wasting your time.

Long-term Solution – What is most ideal long-term?

Many organizations are artificially focused on the short-term – this month or this quarter. Your decisions today will impact decisions you’ll need to make down the road. The clearer the desired future is, the easier today’s decisions will be.

Facts – What does the data say?

It’s not worth relying solely on your gut if you have the relevant data available to you. Peter Drucker said, “Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump out at you.”

Benefit – What are the benefits?

There will likely be primary and secondary benefits, as well as immediate and lag.

Cost – What are the costs?

Don’t measure cost in only dollars.

Risk – What are the risks?

Be comprehensive in your assessment of risk, especially for decisions with wide impact.

Simplicity – Which solution is the most simple to implement?

All things being equal (or sometimes not quite equal), always be biased in favor of the simple option.

Communication – What will be the easiest to communication?

Communication should be productive and constructive, not defensive. Still, you’re asking for trouble if you make a decision you know in advance will be difficult to communicate or defend.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the long list – don’t be. Decision-making is a mental muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets.

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, coach, facilitator and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective.