Learn to understand the decision-making process
No matter who you are or what you do, we are all making decisions and most of the time we don’t even notice because it’s something that we do naturally without even thinking about it. But some of the many decisions we make each day do take a little more thought like what to eat, what to wear, who to see or where to go. However, do we really understand the decision making process?
Some of us find it easy to quickly look at our options, make a decision and just go for it. But others will find decision making really difficult and some people may even become paralyzed by the different options available to them. So what can a professional coach do to help their clients make key decisions at home and at work much easier?
Firstly it’s important to explore what their key skills are and then check if they have any internal conflict when making some or all of these decisions. Because when you boil it down, a decision is simply a conclusion or resolution reached after consideration. In psychology, decision-making is regarded as the cognitive process resulting in the selection of a belief or a course of action among several possible alternatives. And whatever the final choice, it may or may not then prompt an action and can either be a rational or irrational decision based on our assumptions, preferences, beliefs and values.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”
Quote: Charles Darwin
So if you are working with a client and they find it hard to make decisions, try exploring their key skills to see where their strengths are. Run through a simple review of their personal and inter-personal skills and map the results on a skills compass. This will help them explore the different soft skills they have available to enhance their everyday lives and the many people skills they can use to communicate with others. See if you can spot a link between the act of making a decision and if they find it easy to then communicate or explain why they made the decision as this can be what holds them back.
Another area to explore with your client is their key values, as they act as the essential rules on which we build the guiding principles of our life. They are at the core of our belief system and as such, they will underpin every decision we make. If our actions are not in harmony with our own personal values, they can create internal conflicts that are difficult to resolve. For this reason, once your client knows what their key values are, it’s much easier for them to make positive life choices when making any decisions and then confidently explaining them if challenged. Taking your clients through a simple review of their key skills will help them understand if they do have any internal conflict with the decisions they make or find it difficult to make at work or in their everyday life.
It can also be really helpful if you can help your clients truly understand the decision-making process and the different steps within it. Especially if you are working with Senior leaders who are being asked to make bigger decisions that impact not only on them, but their organization, customers and employees.
Learning to follow each step in the process can help them clearly see the options available and understand the positive or negative impact their decision could have. This can really help if they ever need to explain their actions, justify their decision or resolve any internal conflict they may have. And one key question to always try to ask is – “What will the short, medium or long term consequences of this decision really be?”
The steps in the decision-making process
Step one – Define the problem. It’s important to understand the objective, rules and restrictions, then set out the timeline.
Step two – Gather the best information available. Try to establish the facts, then going back to the initial step to ensure you have all the necessary data and it comes from a variety of different sources.
Step three – Analyze the data, then explore the options and alternatives. As the first idea is seldom the right one, it’s better to be methodical so you don’t rule out too quickly something that seems too daring or that initially didn’t strike you as worth exploring. It’s also worthwhile to avoid the pitfall of going backwards and forwards over an idea or getting stuck in a rut. If you do get stuck, break the problem down into bite-size pieces or ask for help so you have different views of the same situation.
At the analysis stage, it is of course important to weigh up the pros and cons of each option, i.e. assess the impact of each potential solution, both for other people and yourself to see if it aligned with your values. Listening to your feelings is important because being governed by reason alone isn’t enough. You need to assess the potential difficulty of implementing each solution and put in place a backup plan in case things don’t go as expected.
Step four – Make a decision. Making a choice invariably means giving up something else, so don’t always worry about making the perfect decision. Some people may prefer not to make a decision and simply let the situation time out or reach a natural conclusion. However, not making decisions, was itself a decision.
Step five – Implement the decision. You will normally focus more on some aspects over others, so it’s important before you implement the solution to think about how you will explain it to others or defend it in the event of objections or resistance.
Step six – Review the decision and evaluate the results. At the end of the day, you know you’ve made the right decision when you feel in harmony with the situation. The right decision can then open up different possibilities, so be ready to get on board and face any difficulties that arise. But also be ready to adjust or adapt if needed and if you do ever make the wrong choice, don’t see it as a failure but as a lesson to be learned.
It will normally help if your client can get themselves into a positive frame of mind before they try to make any key decisions. For example, if they can learn to frame a potential issue or problem as an opportunity to grow smarter and wiser, they will be less likely to think of it as a threat to how they normally like to do things.
Learning to understand the decision-making process and changing the way they approach things by thinking outside the box can be an exciting and inspiring journey to go on. But will only help if they are truly open to the many opportunities that life presents us with each day.
So if you would like to help your clients understand the decision-making process by exploring their key skills or resolving any internal conflicts they may have when making key decisions, suggest a review of their personal and inter-personal skills or explore their key values:
Coaching Personal and Inter-Personal Skills – Learn how to confidently carry out a skills audit with your clients and explore the different soft skills that enhance their everyday lives and the many people skills we all use to communicate with others.
Coaching Personal and Professional Values – Learn how to identify key values and agree clear goals with your clients by using this complete toolkit for coaching both personal and professional values. It also includes a simple step by step guide to use in your coaching sessions.
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