How to Become More Decisive When You Fear Making Decisions
Some leaders are naturally decisive. But if you’re naturally indecisive, think of decisiveness as a skill to be learned, like riding a bike.
The next time your boss refuses to make a decision, say, “You’re so dicidiphobic,” and walk out. It won’t help, but you’ll feel smart.
Two reasons we decide not to decide:
Excessive people-pleasing leads to indecision, anxiety, resentment, and misery. After all, how can you fully know what others want?
People-pleasers can’t say no for fear of disappointing. Anyone who can’t say no lets others drive decisions.
If you can’t make decisions, someone else runs your life.
#2. Loss aversion:
The fear of loss maintains the status quo.
“For most people, the fear of losing $100 is more intense than the hope of gaining $150.” Daniel Kahneman
People lie to avoid loss about twice as often as to achieve gain. (Schindler and Pfattheicher)
3 ways to lean into decisiveness:
“Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all.” Brian Tracy
The decision not to make a decision is a decision.
#1. Create momentum.
Momentum is built on a series of small decisions that achieve a clear goal.
Indecision leads to lethargy, discouragement, and defeat.
“It’s never the size of the problem that is the problem. It’s a lack of momentum.” John Maxwell
#2. Say no:
A coachee, in his youth, couldn’t say no and ended up traveling with his girlfriend’s family on vacation. He felt miserable.
He since learned that saying no earns more respect than always saying yes.
The first time I said no to my boss was painful.
#3. Get real:
People get over poor decisions when you own them, correct them, and keep your eye on the larger objective. (Inspired by a recent coaching conversation.)
What prevents leaders from making decisions?
How might leaders become more decisive?
“What prevents leaders from making decisions?”
Risk-averse, blame-driven cultures, where success is rapidly forgotten, but failure sticks forever.
Thanks Mitch. Good points. You’re only as good as your last win! Sad but true in so many organizations.
A little reflection on the part of blame-driven leaders should help them see that it doesn’t work over the long-term. But the need for short-term wins dominates.
Managing upward and “engineering the(ir) epiphany” is a skill acquirable only with experience …
Always frame the context of the decision to be made by others in their terms/values, not yours; and
If they make a bad decision that is not going to be reconsidered, don’t be afraid to say, “This is what is going to happen and this is what I will do to remediate it …”
Follow up in writing, with the phrase, unless anybody states an objection. Then do it.
Thanks Rurbane. Your last sentence is gold. I like to ask, “Can anyone think of a good reason why we can’t move forward now?” Or, “…make this decision now?”
“Decisiveness is a characteristic of high-performing men and women. Almost any decision is better than no decision at all.” I’ve always believed this for many years. The next comment about No decision is a decision is spot on. I’ve found not making a decision is usually based on fear, doubt and uncertainty in varied ways. A confident leader is “not afraid” to make a decision. They know the playing field, they know where they and their team stand and are confident in their decisions regardless of outcome.
Thanks Roger. Perhaps one important factor in becoming decisive is learning how to build our own confidence in a reasonable amount of time. That seems like it requires self-awareness and skill at learning a strategy for building confidence.
How to build enough confidence to make a decision?
How to build enough confidence to make a decision?; Experience, experience, experience and did I say experience.
We become able to make decisions by making decisions. 🙂 (perhaps small ones at first)
Any other strategies as I hear practice, practice, practice
Thanks so much. I love this post.
We recently watched “The World’s Toughest Race” on Amazon (great human stories & well worth the time). On the show, team leaders made decisions to go off track to find a short cut a couple times. Some saved valuable time and some were horribly lost.
In business, we USUALLY have enough information to make a decision and start down a track. We may need to course correct a bit, but we’ll make more progress and do it more quickly just by starting.
Thanks Rich… yes, just start. Perhaps being prepared to adapt helps alleviate some of the pressure to get everything right the first time.
You might consider this loss aversion, but I discovered that I like options. To make a decision is to preclude other options. Say yes to marriage means saying no to every other potential spouse, including those I’ve not yet met. Spend $6,000 on a once-in-lifetime trip to Italy means I can’t spend that $6,000 on anything else. Not making a decision leaves options on the table and perhaps that makes me feel safer(?). Thanks for the word dicidiphobic.
Thanks Pete. Yes, loss aversion seems applicable… What if I miss out on something better?!! It’s funny that we don’t make any decision based on the fear of missing out. But it seems like NOT making a decision leads to missing out also. 🙂
I am truly indecisive and this post helped me understand why I am like this and how I can use it as leverage in future situations. Thank you for this Dan!
Thank you Sara. It’s encouraging to be of service. I wish you well.
I find myself being indecisive at times for a few reasons, all of which I am working to avoid. Over-analysis- I’m risk adverse by nature, but tend to call my fear and indecision risk management or some other fancy term to make it seem like I’m analyzing and being careful. Often times when I am analyzing, I take it far too far! At a point, there is a diminishing return on how far risk is evaluated. I try to consider ALARA (a term from my engineering days) – as low as reasonable acceptable – in terms of risk.
The other indecision point I face is a large, diverse leadership team. I work to be a servant leader and consider the opinions and input of my team, but it can be to a fault. Often times, too large of groups leads to many opinions and group think. I’ve learned over the last year or so that smaller groups of leaders, when given the right atmosphere, make decisions significantly quicker and more well thought-out than a large group.
Thanks Travis. Thanks for your transparency. The tendency to over-analyze seems innate in some. It seems useful to acknowledge it. I’ve learned to ask myself and to ask teams, “Can anyone think of a good reason why we can’t move forward right now?”
A bias toward action seems to help, as long as people feel reasonably heard.
Thanks for your insight re: small decision-making teams. It makes perfect sense.
Those of us that are quick to jump based on our gut need a Travis personality to balance us out. Done right, it makes a great mix (I think of one of my past workmates as I write this.) Travis, you’ll be in a good place if you are willing to balance out your natural instincts and with the right workmate.
Thanks Rich. The importance of people around us can’t be under-emphasized.
The decision to not make a decision is making a decision is a powerful line in my mind. So being indecisive is still deciding that outcome will occur, as it always does. But not doing anything as a decision some times makes the best decision.
Being a leader in my opinion is not about making the best decisions all the time but using what information you have to move your team in the direction that can create the outcomes desired.
Gaining that momentum to continue making the decision with your team can push the fear of getting it wrong once in a while out of your mind and make it easier to make those tougher decisions.