“What now, lieutenant?!”
This phrase was seared into memory during my initial right of passage as a young Marine Corps officer. Training evaluators would yell into my ears as I navigated through the fog of tear gas and sounds of explosion.
“You’re losing the initiative!”
“Your people are going to die!”
“Make a damn decision!”
The training objective wasn’t to make the right decision every single time.
The main purpose was to train me to lead and think effectively under stress, while maintaining a clear understanding of my mission.
I made the best decision based on the available information and options under my control. I made follow-on decisions based on the outcomes.
As a pilot, I further refined my decision-making process by learning to compartmentalize distractions and emotions during missions.
Usually there are emotional elements that cause indecisions, like feelings of fear, guilt, or anxiety. It’s important to explore them, especially for mid to long term decisions. But compartmentalizing helps to separate the noise that are unrelated to achieving the goal at hand.
It should be noted that you can deliberately plan and practice for immediate decision-making.
For example, I knew exactly what flight maneuvers to execute under certain conditions during missions. It required training, pre-planning, and detailed briefing before every takeoff.
In summary, business leaders can do the following to become strong decision-makers:
Know your objective. A clear vision of your purpose will ensure that your decisions are aligned with your goal.
Compartmentalize your emotions. There is no good or bad news. There is just news. Don’t get stuck in your decision-making process due to fear of the unknown or something you can’t control.
Plan ahead. If you’ve been working on a goal, then you’ve been working on a plan. Consider adding pre-decisions into the plan to make decisions more quickly and easily. A decision matrix, for example, can be shared with your team to delegate certain decisions to them.
Maintain forward progress. Continue to make micro and macro decisions based on the information at hand. A common trend is the belief that every decision equates to either success or failure—all or nothing. As a result, some leaders delay making decisions because the timing isn’t right or more information is required, both of which are usually false.
If you find yourself at an impasse, ask yourself why you feel the need to prolong your decision. The answer is likely tied to your feelings and a deeper reason.