Decision Dilemma: 3 Tips for Making Tough Choices as a Leader

Published on January 20, 2024

Are you stuck in a never-ending cycle of decision paralysis? Here’s how to get better, faster, and smarter when it comes to making tough decisions.

As a leader, people are constantly looking up to you. Whether it’s for guidance, inspiration, or mentorship, what you do and say matters. The expectation is that you’ll instinctively know the right decisions to make when it comes to the success of the business. When you pack it all together, it can amount to a whole lot of pressure.

Another Day, Another Deluge of Decision-Making

From the moment you wake up in the morning, your day is full of decisions. You think about what to wear, which coffee concoction you’ll order when it’s your turn to step up to the barista, and which route to take to work. And that’s just the first half of the morning.

According to a 2023 study, aptly named The Decision Dilemma, 75% of leaders surveyed said that the number of decisions they have to make on a given day has increased 10-fold over the last three years. For each of those decisions, the amount of data at our disposal has also skyrocketed. That means that the decision-making process has become increasingly time-consuming.

With so much data to peruse, another problem seeps into the equation. There’s a trust deficit when it comes to data sources. The survey points out that 35% of respondents often can’t decide which data to trust, and 70% simply give up on making any decision at all as a result.

Perhaps the most disturbing statistic is how this decision paralysis is affecting us outside of the workplace. A whopping 85% of business leaders report negative impacts on their personal lives due to the stress of having to make so many daily decisions, with 35% confessing that work-related decision stress has led to increased feelings of anxiety.

The Cost of Bad Decisions

Wherever you are on the corporate ladder, you’ve likely made a bad decision somewhere along the way. These business blunders can be small mistakes that teach us valuable lessons, or they can be colossal, costly mistakes that haunt us throughout our careers.

In 2000, Netflix offered Blockbuster the opportunity to collaborate. They turned it down. Ten years later, Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy. In 2022, Netflix raked in 31.6 billion dollars. In 1985, an executive at the Coca-Cola Company decided their already bestselling product needed to be “better.” They introduced “New Coke” to a very confused fan base. Sales dropped by 20%.

3 Tips to Make Decisions More Efficiently and Effectively 

Understanding how decisions are made, both good and bad, can help leaders learn how to move through this often mind-numbing process. If decision dilemma is taking up too much time in your day and way too much space in your brain, then it’s time to learn the fine art of decision-making and outline a strategy that works for you.

Learn from Your Peers

To start making better decisions, it’s critical to understand how other leaders approach tough choices. Talk to your peers about their mistakes and their successes. Learn the stories behind some of the best business decisions ever made to gain powerful insights into how those choices were made. Over time, you’ll learn how to apply similar methods through effective thought processes.

Develop Your Process

There are many well-known decision-making processes that you can adopt and adapt to your liking. A few to consider are the Rational Decision-Making Model, SWOT analysis, Cost-Benefit Analysis, Pros and Cons list, Decision Matrix, and Brainstorming. Or something as simple as pausing and reflecting on your decisions works, too. Find what works for you and stick to the process.

Set a Timeline

One major reason that decision dilemmas lead to anxiety is that we sit on the “what ifs” for too long. So much fear is created around potentially making the wrong decision, and that stress weighs us down, ultimately leading to procrastination. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to go through your decision-making process and put the decision date in your calendar. Stick to it and follow through confidently.

For some leaders, it’s easy to sort out pros and cons and come up with answers. For many of us, the fear of failure is always looming. That’s why it’s important to remind ourselves that win or lose, there’s always a lesson to be extracted. Decision-making is a crucial skill in business, and we won’t always get it right. But with enough practice, we will get better.

Ginni Saraswati is a member of Grit Daily's Leadership Network and the owner and founder of Ginni Media, a podcasting production house providing multiple podcast services in one company. Through Ginni Media, she produces podcasts for Fortune 500 companies and leading brands like Siemens, Conde Nast and AAA, as well as provides tools for thousands of people creating and producing their own shows.

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