Make Faster Decisions: Know Your Sources of Information
Do you sometimes struggle to make quick decisions? Use these tips to get the answers you need — fast.
My boss has the ability to make smart decisions, quickly. I’ve always admired this about him. It helps get things done. There is no time wasted on contemplation, assessment and overthinking.
For me: decisiveness = confidence.
This person must know what they are doing if they are comfortably able to make decisions quickly.
I’ve struggled with making quick decisions for much of my career. In large part, it’s my personality. I want to be incredibly thoughtful when making decisions, making sure I have all the inputs, see things from all sides, and have weighed the alternatives carefully. This level of consideration is part of what makes me good at my job (I’m not impulsive, or emotional; I focus on the facts). But as my career has progressed, and my responsibilities have grown (in magnitude and volume) the luxury of slow decision making is gone. In order to support my team, the organization, and even myself I need to be able to act faster.
I posed this dilemma to my professional coach some time ago, and was astounded at the simplicity of his answer. Simple, but so helpful! The conversation went something like this:
Nina: “I want to be able to make decisions faster.”
Coach: “When you’re slow to make decisions, what is holding you back? And what are you spending time doing in order to make your decision?”
Nina: “It’s a lack of understanding or clarity that usually holds me back, so I’m looking for information.”
Coach: “Information. That’s easy. Let’s break it down. What are the sources of information you rely on to help make decisions? If you know your sources of information, and when to use each, we’re able to look in the right place quickly and act more rapidly.”
Sounds pretty obvious, right? Instinctively, this is what we do. BUT because we’re doing it subconsciously, it usually take a while and we fumble to where we need to be.
Alternatively, approaching uncertainty (a decision) with the confidence of knowing what we need to reach the decision is empowering! It takes the edge off of not knowing, and focuses our energy on action instead of getting stuck in inaction.
For myself, the sources of information I rely on fall into three categories:
- Experience/Gut: If I’m well versed in a space, I trust my instincts/expertise. It’s about thinking back to a similar situation, and applying what was previously learned.
- Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): If I’m not an expert, I figure out who is and ask them. This can be a superior, a colleague, an employee or someone outside your organization.
- Data/Research: I’m not an expert, and I don’t know an expert, I do research. This research based information can come from internal systems (think CRM, ERP, etc.), raw data exports, surveys, or often just a few hours of online research (there is very little you can’t figure out from a Google search).
Now, when I’m faced with a decision that I don’t have an immediate answer to, my first reaction is to go to my sources of information. I start by asking myself:
- Have I dealt with something similar before? What happened? Can I apply that here. (Reminder: trust your gut!)
- If I haven’t dealt with something similar before, who do I know that has expertise in this space? Someone within my organization? Someone outside. Ask!
- If I can’t find the expertise in my network, I focus on determining exactly what data I need to support the decision making process.
In a future article, I’ll dig into #3 in further detail. For now — it’s important note that part of the success of this methodology is getting the core of your indecisiveness (what are you unsure of), to make sure you’re asking the right questions.
With this framework in mind, I’ve noticed a huge difference in my ability to respond to inquiries with both speed and confidence. It has eliminated wasted time spent pondering unintentionally, and helped focus my efforts in the right direction. The methodology itself also instills confidence in the person who needs the decision made; it shows humility and competence.
Sometimes, the simplest practices can make the biggest difference in how we approach challenges. I highly encourage you to try it!
Questions for Reflection:
- Think about a recent decision you struggled to make. What held you back? What finally helped you make the decision?
- When you’re faced with indecisiveness, what primary sources of information do you typically rely on to make an informed decision? Write them down.
- How can structure your team, your data, etc. so that you have easy access to the information you need?
- How can you put this into practice? Try it on something small, and repeat it.