I am terrified I will make the wrong decision

I am terrified I will make the wrong decision

That is what I hear all the time from managers. They are in the driver’s seat. They feel highly exposed. Every day they must make the decisions, many of which can have devastating consequences if that go bad.

One of the participants in a recent Clinician 2 Manager workshop expressed this fear, recalling decisions she had made in the past that, with hind sight, she would have made differently. She, and many like her, want to know how to make the right decisions.

However, unlike clinical decisions, managerial decisions do not tend to have clear alternatives or complete (or even very good) information at the time that the decision needs to be made. Many would argue this is also the case for many clinical decisions and yet clinicians do not tend to get paralysed into inaction. Maybe, the difference is because the consequence of no-decision – or inaction in a clinical situation is more obvious than might be the case with the amorphous blob that is the managerial context.

Here are some ideas to consider in building your decision-making prowess:

  • Gather as much information as the decision warrants – Undertake the standard pro-cons exercise, testing whether the information you are drawing on is fact or assumption
  • Delay your decisions – David Allen (of Getting Things Done fame) suggests that we delay our decisions to the last responsible moment so you can gather as much information as possible. I am not sure I agree with that but then I am pretty impetuous and like taking action – and as a result have made some dumb decisions in my life (nothing that I couldn’t recover from though).
  • Design your days around decisions – Apparently, your brain runs out of cognitive energy and ability the more decisions you make over the course of a day – and, get this, your brain does not discern between big and little decisions, and is equally fatigued by them. So:
    • make the big important decisions in the morning after a good night’s sleeping on the, and
    • convert the small decisions into habits and routines as much as possible (e.g. should I do exercise this morning or not – just do the damn exercise – stop thinking about it!!)
  • Flip a coin – I remember many years ago, a lecturer at Monash Business School saying that if the decision is hard because the choices seem equally possible and reasonable, then flip a coin! Just do something!
  • Continually review and adapt – Build in a review to check whether how the decision is panning out – and whether a new decision is needed.
  • Don’t beat yourself up – Know that you made the best possible decision at the time with the information you had.

I’d love to hear your pearls of wisdom about what works for you.


Coming soon – The Brains Trust

If you want tools, good information, and to tap into a brains trust of experience and expertise in management to help you make great decisions, then join us on the Clinician 2 Empowered Leader Journey.


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