No organization or leader makes perfect decisions all the time. But during critical points, one bad decision can cause catastrophic failure. If you want to make better decisions, avoid the following ten traps. Which trap do you gravitate towards?
1. Holding too high of an opinion of you.
The results of viewing ourselves as “greater than we are” are the same: acting over-confidently, failing to seek advice, assuming we are smarter than we really are, and ultimately, a whole lot of damage!
2. Failing to seek or listen to wise counsel.
Leaders often can make important decisions, decisions that can have a significant impact on themselves and those whom they serve, with little or no counsel. The technical term for this person is “fool”!
3. Making decisions impulsively.
One major reason to avoid making decisions impulsively is that “when considering a decision, the mind gives disproportionate weight to the first information it receives. Initial impressions, estimates, or data anchor subsequent thoughts and judgements” (Hammond, Keeney, and Raiffa, “The Hidden Traps in Decision Making,” Harvard Business Review, 2006).
4. Allowing the search for a “perfect” decision to create paralysis.
The fear of a mistake can incapacitate us. It is admirable to desire to make a good decision, but it is often a lack of courage when we seek a perfect one. Paralysis can also be a result of avoiding making a hard decision due to fear of conflict. While there are times when waiting longer is appropriate, this can also be a sign of a leader, board, or team living in fear and avoiding any risks.
5. Facing a decision that exceeds the skills or mental/emotional capacity of the leadership.
Leaders may face a decision that exceeds their mental or emotional capacity, and quite often, they can face a number of such decisions all at once. Just as for Trap #2, leaders need to surround themselves with others who have experience and can help shed clarity on the situation.
6. Viewing questions as an enemy rather than a friend.
We have seen on many occasions how a leader, when questioned, can become aggressive or defensive. Yet, without being questioned, a leader is much more likely to make poor decisions since he or she may not have thought it through or missed important information that could have improved the decision or prevented a damaging decision from being made.
7. Failing to understand and manage human/group dynamics.
According to Dr. Daniel Goleman, one of the leading researchers in emotional intelligence, groups often tend to make better decisions than individuals, but this is usually true only when the group has a high level of trust and healthy group dynamics. In addition, research has shown that if we have experienced a negative emotion, like anger, close in time to when we are making a decision, that emotion may influence our approach to the decision even though the two were unrelated.
8. Spiritualizing decisions.
One of the tempting ways for Christian leaders to respond to confusion and complexity is to spiritualize the problem or decision. While all decisions have a spiritual aspect, spiritualization often occurs when a sound decision-making process is eliminated. Spiritualization artificially simplifies challenges and seldom leads to wise decisions. Ultimately, it abuses and trivializes God and His Word.
9. Failing to correct a bad decision.
More often than not, when we feel like we may have made a bad decision, we still continue moving ahead instead of correcting the decision.
10. Succumbing to decision overload.
The average person today is being confronted with an ever-increasing amount of responsibility and information (aka information overload). In his book Paradox of Choice (2016), Dr. Barry Schwartz notes that while freedom to choose is a good thing, too many options can incapacitate a person’s ability to make a decision.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.