It’s no wonder decision making is so difficult for people today. We’re inundated with overchoice.
I’m not a big cereal eater. In fact I rarely have cereal in the morning. I usually opt for egg whites and some turkey. But that has become a bit boring as you can imagine so this week I thought, what the heck I’ll try some cereal. I went to the local market to get some and told my wife I’d be right back. I was shocked at what confronted me: an entire isle filled with different types of cereal. How could there be so many different types of cereal? Why? For what reason?After staring open mouthed at the shelves filled with every type of cereal imaginable I thought, “OK I’ll just stick with Tony the Tiger.” You know the old standby, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. I became numb when I discovered that there are actually three different types of Frosted Flakes. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I realized I said aloud to the dismay of a fellow shopper. “Come on is this necessary?”After 15 minutes of weighing the nutritional daily allowance, fiber content and comparing the grams of NutraSweet, saccharine and fat for each, I opted for the box with the coolest looking cartoon and of course, the one with the prize (a throwback to my kindergarten days).Sound familiar? And its not just cereal, its everything! Why do we have so many choices? Because we are barraged with so much information that it makes every choice more difficult than ever before. And more time consuming. Companies must respond to information by making choices and ultimately decisions. Yet time after time they freeze. Too often their choice is INDECISION.Today making decisions is the most important skill for any entrepreneur and small business owner. Did I say SKILL? Is decision making really a skill? I think so. Can good decision making be learned? Yes! Decision making is a skill that can be acquired with practice.There are some basic precepts to good decision making. I say follow the six basic rules of good decision making:
- Get all the facts and weigh the assets and liabilities to each course
- Get professional advise and opinions
- Make decisions quickly
- Don’t make a habit out of reversing decisions
- Accept the risk, stress and conflict that comes with making decisions
- Make decisions that produce change
Why don’t people like to make decisions? Most would say they DO make decisions. But ask them if they make decisions quickly and they would say, NO WAY! This is true. Most people are conditioned AGAINST making decisions quickly. They associate making a fast decision with a bad decision. They delay and the opportunity slips away.Consider this… When you delay a decision you never have the same decision to make again because in this information-intensive culture, the facts are different the next day and the next week. But people often delude themselves into thinking that they can wait to make a decision and that nothing much will change. Time passes and so does the opportunity. Don’t get me wrong I’m not talking about making snap decisions. I’m talking about getting all the facts, weighing the assets and liabilities to each decision, getting professional advise and opinions and then making a decision.Good managers make decisions quickly and change slowly. We are all looking for the “risk-free” decision Let’s face it all decisions involve risk. Most people, unfortunately are risk adverse. We want to wait until “all the data” is in. We want the decision to gently rise to the top in an unmistakable fashion. The problem is that we will never get all the data in. The decision simply will not rise to the top. The data is changing from minute to minute. “All the data” is a concept like infinity. You can approach it but never get there. Risk can no longer be eliminated from the decision making process.Decision making needs to be redefined as an exercise of risk management. But how do you eliminate the stress that comes with change? You don’t! When you make a decision you create change. When change happens people go into stress. It is undeniable. Unfortunately, however, people view stress today as a negative feeling and try to eliminate it from their lives. What we should all be working on is not eliminating stress but coping with the stress that change produces. If you think about it people NEED to be in stress.We’ve all heard the stories about the poor guy that retires and within a month or two, he has a heart attack and dies or falls prey to depression. Why? Because he’s removed all of the stress from his life. He’s stopped changing, stopped being productive and consequently his lack of decisions, change and stress has cause a lack of meaning in his life.The opposite of stress is not comfort and health, it’s apathy and atrophy. Back in the old days when I was working for the man (or the woman in this case) I would often say to my boss, “Man, I’m stressed.” And in her infinite wisdom, good old Sue Schneider would tell me, “Mark stress is good, distress is bad.” Thanks Sue. Just look up the meaning of these words in the dictionary.Distress – pain, suffering affliction, state of trouble.Stress – mental or physical tension, urgency, a force that is exerted.Which sounds healthy? Look at the stress that comes with change as a catalyst for growth. What can we do if our decisions produce conflict? This is a natural course. Our tendency is to second guess our decisions and quickly reverse them if they produce conflict. Unfortunately most people begin to regret their decisions and take steps at reversing them rather than deal with the conflict. Indecisiveness destroys credibility! Employees attitudes become, “this too shall pass” and view our decisions as just a wave that will roll back to shore. They become cynical and see no reason to adapt to change. Don’t fall prey to this deadly sin.Deal with the conflict that decisions ultimately will cause and watch change occur around you. This is precisely what I focus on in my consulting practice… bringing about change within small businesses by helping management make better decisions. I help business owners and managers to make a habit out of making good decisions. I also try to fold this strategy into my classes and workshops.Give yourself every opportunity for success this year. Check out our web site for our next Entrepreneurial Workshop and get pre-registered. If nothing else I guarantee that it will be a great way to start the year with a positive first step.Those of you that have attended any of my classes know that they are energy packed and you walk out motivated and cranked-up!