Who could have missed the meltdown of the year as tennis champion Serena Williams berated chair umpire Carlos Ramos at the US Open.
We all know that Serena is a great champion, having won an amazing 23 grand slam titles, yet she found herself exploding under the pressure of a final.
Her rant hurt her reputation as a sports person, as people around the world either applauded or condemned her, and worse she spoilt what should have been one of the greatest moments of newly crowned US Open champion Naomi Osaka’s life.
Now I am sure that in her quieter moments that Serena is having a thought that many of us have had, and that is “if I had my time over I would handle things very differently.”
We all make decisions every day, some minor and some potentially life changing. So how can we identify when we are making a poor choice and as importantly to become confident with the decisions we do make so we do not spend time berating ourselves over a poor call.
The key to good decision making is to be aware of the circumstances we face when we are making an important decision, what I like to call the three ‘see saws’:
- Too much information versus no information
- Too emotionally attached versus no emotion at all
- Too much input from others versus no input from others
In general these see-saws do not cause too many issues, should I wear a white top or blue, turn left or right, Chinese or Vietnamese for dinner.
However, when we face the more challenging, bigger or important decisions, this see-saw becomes critical in the decisions that we make and why we need…
What are the CRITICAL, essential information that we need to make a good decision?
- If you have a tendency to procrastinate this can pull you back.
- If you have a tendency to be too brash or reactive, this slows you down
The key is to find the balance that works best for you.
Force yourself to look at the situation through Edward De Bonos 6 ‘Thinking Hats’ to gain a more balanced perspective of three logical and three emotional filters rather than a single angle:
- White hat – facts
- Red hat – emotions
- Black hat – Critic – risks
- Yellow hat – Benefits – optimism
- Green hat – Creative perspective
- Blue hat – Process
Limit the inputs
Identify a pool of credible people to ask input from. Not too many, as this becomes confusing and remember golden rule, those closet to you will tend tell you what you want to hear, so be selective with the number of people you ask and who!
Decision making tree
You can use tools such as a decision tree/matrix to help rationalise your thinking.
A pros and cons list is the simplest version of one of these, yet both can help you see clearly the best choice to make based on criteria and factors.
Use the ‘pareto’ analysis: What are 20% of the decision you can make that deliver 80% of your results and goals, rather than the other way around.
Beware ‘decision making fatigue’ – once we reach fatigue we will have a tendency to either be reckless with our decisions or avoid making them, so make big decisions earlier in the day and try to spend less time on the small stuff.
Keys to making the right call
- Use situational analysis
- Apply deadlines helping you to minimise procrastination
- Do your research by identifying the critical factors (the 6 Thinking Hats)
- Play out the choices long term to understand the full impact of your decision
- Do not regret a decision as if you have used all the tools then you are making the best decision you can make now
- Trust your instincts as intuition is a strong indicator of decisions, with strong hunches best listened to
In Napoloen Hill’s book ‘Think and Grow Rich’ we see highlighted the qualities of successful leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, sports people and people from all walks of life.
A common fact found amongst their qualities was an ability to make a balanced decision swiftly and then change their mind slowly, if at all. This makes sense, as if someone flip flops on choices and decisions, it shows a lack of confidence.
In the end no one can ever see you make a decision as the results of these calls will be evident by the results in your life.
Whilst this may sound like pressure, remember that if you have gathered all the critical information, sought sound advice and have truly played out the consequences of the decision in your mind, then the likelihood is that you will make a good call.
Even if it does not work out as planned, remember hindsight is really foresight, so whilst we may feel the impact of some of our decisions, thinking of these as learnings it is the best way to ensure you are living a life free of regret.