Let’s say you are a judge. On one occasion, you will issue pardons 7 out of 10 times. On another occasion, you will issue pardons 1 out of 10 times. Do you know what the occasion is?
C-Suite Executives are faced with decisions every day. They are more than you realize. It’s not just decisions within the company or in a day’s work, it’s all the decisions you made on the way into work and after work. From what you wore to what you did for breakfast to which lane your drove in to what you said to your children – decisions add up, and as they add up, they take their toll. Science calls it decision fatigue. Too many small choices drain mental energy; sometimes we make them because we simply don’t recognize what we are doing. Sometimes we make them because decisions we make allow us to manage and control more. Sometimes we make them because we don’t want to make bigger decisions. Regardless of why, we make them. It doesn’t help that we make them after work, either, because if you are like me, you are still mulling over situations in the back of your mind. If you reached a decision before you went to bed, you want to rethink it. There is a reason we “sleep on it.”
The occasion in which judges grant pardons 70% of the time versus 10% of the time is whether they made the decision in the morning (70) or the afternoon (10). That is scary. So is the study that showed that business analysts were less accurate with their forecast if they made it in the afternoon. And the study that divided people into two groups: One was given a series of decisions to make, and the other was given fewer decisions to make. After, each group was to solve the same puzzle. The group that made fewer decisions easily outperformed those who were fatigued by decisions. When we are fatigued, we stop trying. We take the easy and safest way out.
Anyone can make decisions. C-Suite Executives must make effective decisions. Effective decisions implement goals and plans, influence direction and people, and identify key issues and insights. To make these decisions, C-Suite Executives need to stay informed on trends and market realities within their business and filter decisions through customer-centric focus. If they do, then the following strategies will lead to the most effective decisions.
3 Strategies for Effective Decision Making
- Process-centered Decisions
Many decisions brought before C-Suite Executives issue from previously covered territory. You know this, because you will be asking the same questions to gather the right information you need for the best decision possible. Not only does this consume time, but it depletes energy and heightens irritation.
What are the decisions you must make in which you are better served if people come prepared with the information you already know you will need? Effective decision-makers have people do the work beforehand. You provide the template of questions, they come in with the answers. For example most decisions include cost factors or feedback from affected parties. Why should you be the one to gather that information? The person needing the decision does the work: You make the decision.
Collaboration tools can be a valuable assistant in process-centered decisions. They are easy ways for people to garner the information and insights needed before they ever come to you for a decision. If necessary, they provide a history of conversation that you can glance through to verify perspectives that are important to you.
The key: Keep in your court the decisions you must make; keep the responsibility to bring solid and complete information in the other person’s court.
- Practice-based decisions
A number of the same decisions need to be made in the life of a company. People can make “easy” decisions when same decisions have been automated or documented. Policies and procedures are in place so that work has been done once.
Have as many questions answered in advance as possible, and never make the same decision twice. Even if an employee seeks an exception, there is a best practice in place by which exceptions are granted or not (Now we know that smart employees seek exceptions in the morning and not the afternoon).
At the personal level, C-Suite Executives have learned that lists are still their friend. A To-Do and a Not-To-Do list maximizes your focus. A Pro and Con list clarifies your thinking, especially if those attributes are measured toward alignment of company culture and values. A Workflow list, starting with the end in mind, identifies what is truly the next best step toward accomplishment.
- People-driven decisions
C-Suite Executives must make the decisions that reflect what they are responsible for, such as vision, culture, strategic direction, product creation and so forth. All other decisions can and must be made by others. You can give parameters, but so long as outcomes are within those boundaries, you don’t need to make another decision in regards to that issue.
Do you really need to be in on what desserts are served at the banquet? There are people better suited to make certain decisions then you are, and the decisions they make for you may be the ones that energize them. It’s a double-win: You are not drained by unnecessary decisions; they are thrilled to be making decisions that make them feel effective.
Clark Kent wore the same glasses all the time. I think he was on to something. Even Superman avoided decision fatigue.