Pursue What Matters
Episode 167: Don’t let These Three Mistakes Undermine Your Decisions
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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you want to make better decisions? Most of us do. Well, there are three common mistakes we often make when it comes to decision making. So join me today as I help you identify these mistakes, so they don’t undermine your decisions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 0:16
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the Pursue What Matters podcast, where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. So hopefully you joined me last week, because I started talking about decision making. And I talked about why it’s so darn challenging. So the truth is, we make decisions in real time without the advantage of foresight or hindsight, right, we must balance risk and uncertainty, which can always be very, very challenging. And, you know, we might also have the specter of past decisions looming over us creating more anxiety and doubt when it comes to making decisions.
Dr. Melissa Smith 1:17
So there are lots of reasons why making decisions can be really challenging. And if you haven’t listened to last week’s episode, I would recommend that you go back and listen to that. And you know, of course, today, we’re talking about decisions. And then next week, we’re going to wrap this up. And so you know, I also last week talked about the unique role a leader has to make decisions. And so today, we’re gonna really focus on three common mistakes that we make when it comes to decision making. Now we’ll be focusing specifically on mistakes relative to leadership. And I hope that you can really apply it to your work, and I hope you consider yourself a leader. But these mistakes can be helpful in other decisions, right? These are principles that we’re going to be talking about. And so they can be very helpful for decisions in your personal life as well. And so every week with the podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead in one of three areas. So first, I want to help you lead with clarity, do you have a sense of purpose, do you know where you’re going and why it matters. Second, I want to help you lead with clarity, I really want you to cultivate self awareness and self reflection so that you can lead yourself more effectively. And then third, I want to help you lead and build a community. So how we interact with others, how we build our teams, support our teams, really makes a huge difference. And so today, specifically, as we think about three common mistakes of decision making, we really are focusing on clarity and curiosity. Because you know, this sense of purpose, if we lose sight of it, we can get ourselves in trouble. I talked about that a little bit more last week. And then of course, having good self awareness about what trips us up in the process of decision making can help us to have more curiosity so that we can lead ourselves more effectively. And so let’s jump right in with three common mistakes. So mistake one, we don’t take responsibility for our decisions. And this is a big one. So maybe you abdicate decision making that really is your responsibility. This is not helpful, because sometimes what happens is, our decisions get made by default. Because we abdicate our responsibility, or we avoid making a decision.
Dr. Melissa Smith 3:47
One of the ways that we fail to take responsibility for our decisions is that we end up making reactive decisions instead of proactive decisions. So we get pushed up against a wall, because we have avoided that responsibility. And then we have to take action quick or we panic, and we make a reactive decision, instead of really owning responsibility for the decision, thinking it through, you know, taking the time to really reflect on what’s best, and being proactive about that decision.
Dr. Melissa Smith 4:21
The other reasons that the other reason that we don’t take responsibility for our decisions, is that we don’t want to make the wrong decision. And how many of you have felt like that mean, I have felt like that a lot. So it’s like, okay, I don’t want to make the wrong decision. So I’m just gonna sit here and hope that you know, something works out. That is not a great plan for life. And, you know, it’s understandable that you don’t want to make the wrong decision. I also spoke to that in last week’s podcast, so I hope you will check that out because there’s not really a wrong decision to make. But our unwillingness to take responsibility for our decisions can ask salutely set us up for poor decision making. And we don’t want that to happen to you. And so that is the first mistake is we fail to take responsibility for our decisions in the first place. And that leads to poor decisions decisions by default reactive decisions, and fear of making the wrong decision. So now let’s head to mistake, two. So the second mistake that we make is we move too fast in the decision making process. So what happens and I see this all the time, I’ve done this before, I’m really trying to overcome this. But we short circuit the decision making process because we don’t want that anxiety and that pressure of considering a decision, right decision making is inherently vulnerable. Because there is uncertainty, there’s risk, depending on the size of the decision, right, you can have a ton of uncertainty, a ton of risk, which kicks up a ton of vulnerability. And so that will also kick up anxiety if we’re not careful. And so we move too fast by just like, I’m just gonna hurry make a decision. So I don’t have to think about it. Again, I have done that on big decisions. And I look back and I just, that’s when I put the palm to forehead, right? Like, that’s not a great approach to making decisions. Because you certainly don’t, you know, you free yourself of like that anxiety in the moment. But you’ve paired yourself with all of the consequences of a short circuited decision making process. And so what happens when we move too fast is we fail to enlist feedback, we fail to enlist devil’s advocate diverse views, we fail to enlist information that could be very helpful to us in our decision making process. And one of the ways that we move too fast is we focus on what we know, to the exclusion of what we don’t know, when making decisions. And that’s not good, right. And sometimes we do that because of anxiety. It’s like, if I don’t acknowledge that this reality exists, then I don’t have to deal with it, which is not true. And again, we focus on what we don’t on what we know, and not on what we don’t know, which is not good, because decisions are about managing uncertainty, often our decisions are about doing something new. And so of course, you don’t necessarily know everything you need to know. And so you’ve got to be able to tolerate uncertainty, you must assess risk, right, especially like things, you know, you probably have risk pinned down pretty nicely.
Dr. Melissa Smith 7:44
But on new frontiers, new activities, new services, you really need to gather a lot of information and feedback and perspective so that you can adequately and accurately assess Rick risk. And Rick to maybe you also need to determine how to navigate uncertainty.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:06
So when you seek out information that you don’t know already, this helps you to determine how you can best navigate the terrain. And so you must consider what you don’t know and moving too fast prevents you from that consideration. In fact, it shuts down that process of considering what you don’t know. And so that is the second mistake, we move too fast. And often that is because of anxiety, right? Like we just want to make the decision because we’re tired of thinking about it. We’re tired of worrying about it. And we have this magical belief that once we make the decision, those worries will go away, and they don’t. So that’s our second mistake.
Dr. Melissa Smith 8:54
And now let’s move to our third mistake, which is we move too slowly. So sometimes we move too fast. And sometimes we move too slowly. And this indeed is a mistake. And so maybe this sounds familiar to you. Fear of making the wrong decision, maybe leaves you paralyzed, you just feel stuck. Right? We think about analysis paralysis. That’s exactly what happens for some folks when it comes to decision making. And again, it’s this it’s the same thing in terms of vulnerability, difficulty tolerating uncertainty and worry and fear around risk. These are mistake two and three are just two different responses to the face of vulnerability risk and uncertainty. So in mistake two, we move too fast right? We short circuit the process so we can still we can feel relief of making the decision. And with mistake three, we we stay stuck. We move too slowly. Because we’re trying to avoid making that decision.
Dr. Melissa Smith 10:00
Okay, so other ways that moving too slowly shows up. And this is I see this a lot on teams is we conduct decision making by consensus, that is a lousy way to make decisions. But I do think this is a very common way. A lot of organizations try to make decisions, right, they want it to be fair, they want it to be equal. And so they aim for consensus, which ultimately leads in worse decision. So I would never recommend decision making by consensus. And here’s the other thing, good luck getting to consensus, you’ll end up waiting a really long time. And so what happens is, you end up losing the opportunity on a decision, because you’re, you know, back in the boardroom trying to build consensus or achieve consensus. And of course, you need to have some buy in, that’s important. But that’s not the same as consensus. And so what happens is, we just keep pushing decisions out, and often, right, that’s our anxiety, but it’s also our avoidance of conflict. Because to make better decisions, we need to tackle out the challenges, we need to look at the risks, we need to look at the concerns of our team members. And a lot of times we don’t like that that’s really uncomfortable. And so we’ll just kind of kick that count around to the next meeting, and then hope, you know, it’s kind of decision making by siege, right? Like hoping over time, people will just like, well, they’ll just, they’ll just give up and say, okay, yes, let’s move forward. Again, really not a great approach to making decisions. And so this low tolerance for risk and uncertainty leaves you unable to take action.
Dr. Melissa Smith 11:49
So the truth is, when it comes to decision making, and specifically when it comes to leadership, is you must have a bias for action. Life keeps moving, and so must you. And so ultimately, you know, again, this is the same thing I mentioned before, but at times the decision is made for us, because of our indecision. So the opportunity has passed, someone else takes charge of the decision, or others become frustrated and move on. And so we don’t want decisions being made by default. And so we really want to stay away from this third mistake, which is we move too slowly.
Dr. Melissa Smith 12:27
Okay, so let’s review quickly, these three common mistakes. Number one, we don’t take responsibility for our decisions. Number two, we move too fast. And number three, we move too slowly. And I would say these three mistakes are all in some form a reaction to the vulnerability of decision making. And so now I have some solutions for you. So I have two solutions for you today, solution. One is take responsibility for making decisions. So as a leader, you are ultimately responsible for making decisions, keeping momentum moving and anticipating the future. Once you take that responsibility on your shoulders, then you can get into problem solving mode, and gathering the information that you need a next week with a podcast, I am going to provide you with a decision making process to really help you to have confidence in making decisions but you must own the decision making process it is on your shoulders, take it It’s okay. It’s not that heavy. We’ve got things to help you we’ve got support to help you. And then our second solution is use a decision making process to pace yourself and your team.
Dr. Melissa Smith 13:45
So next week, I’ll jump into the specifics of this process to help you make better decisions. So you can avoid these twin mistakes of moving too slowly or too fast. And so having a good structured process really helps you and your team to pace through the process. So you’re not slowing it down too much. You’re not moving too quickly through it, you’re really considering the factors that you need to pay attention to.
Dr. Melissa Smith 14:14
So please stay tuned for that podcast next week. And in the meantime, head on over to my website. To check out the show notes with the resources for this episode. You can find that at www.drmelissasmith.com/167-3decisionmistakes. So one more time that’s www.drmelissasmith.com/167-3decisionmistakes In the meantime, please consider joining me on Instagram @dr.melissasmith. I’ve got lots of resources for the podcast. I got called questions for you. I have some quotes, some checklists for you to pay attention to, as you think about decisions. And then of course, if you wouldn’t mind taking a moment to review the podcast, it really helps other people to find the podcast, and I always appreciate your feedback. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai