8 Ways To End Indecision Decisively

In this increasingly do-more-with-less business world, we can’t afford to let our employees be more or less checked out. And yet an astonishing 70% are just that, disengaged at work, according to Gallup polls. It’s almost impossible not to disengage when toiling in the paralysis of indecision. It’s hard to imagine anything more meaning and motivation-draining, more bereft of a sense of significance, or anything simply more frustrating. 

Deciding not to decide has a price. A big one.

It can create doubt, uncertainty, lack of focus, and even resentment. Multiple options can linger, sapping an organization’s energy and killing a sense of completion. Timelines stretch while costs skyrocket.

But none of us are indecisive on purpose. We’re not evil. Indecision can be borne from a pragmatic desire for more data which, when overdone, can cross over into perfectionism. Some of us are unwilling to compromise until we see an option that contains no trade-offs. The failure of a deciding body to feel a sense of accountability can grind the process to a halt. Fear of making a wrong decision can come into play as well. We lose sight of what the objective behind a decision was in the first place, confusing ourselves in the process and overcomplicating the choice to be made. Some others of us lack confidence to make a firm decision.

Whatever the cause, the corrosive effect is inescapable. As leaders, we can do better. Here’s how to put an end to indecision, with authority.

Meter Your Emotions

Sometimes our emotions get in the way of making decisions, causing us to gloss over facts right in front of us, or creating a desperate search for information to support the decision we want to make. Countering indecision may require accepting inevitabilities much sooner while refusing to let emotions cloud the realities at hand.

Step Back and Evaluate the True Impact of a Wrong Decision

Fear of making an incorrect decision can paralyze the well-meaning manager. At such times, step back and ask “What is the worst thing that could happen in the long run if this decision is wrong?” Such a question may reveal that the consequences aren’t dire after all, and may well net much more decisiveness. Getting comfortable with the possibility of being wrong can help the right decisions happen faster.

Consider the Risks/Costs of Doing Nothing

Asking the question, “What are the risks/costs of not making a decision?” may create awareness of the pitfalls that would otherwise be glossed over. It may become obvious budgets will run over, competitors will gain precious time for counter plans, or resources will have to be further stretched and kept from working on some other priority.

Act with Self-assurance

Acting with self-confidence and a “you have to break some eggs to make an omelet” mindset is one of the greatest enablers for making a decision. Self-doubt or worrying about what others expect you to decide can cripple a decision in progress. Self-confidence helps bolster the internal fortitude to make the tough calls, as well as the external reception of the decision once made. Ever watch someone arrive at a decision, but they do so in a manner riddled with visible self-doubt? These are the decisions most unlikely to stick.

Rediscover the Plot

Sometimes simply stepping back to get some distance from a problem and refreshing yourself on the importance or objective of a decision can be tremendously helpful. What seemed like a huge call to be made might reorient itself and shrink vastly in size. Revisiting the objective behind the decision may provide a useful reorientation and illuminate a very clear choice among a set of options. And granting some time, space, and distance can help the fog of being too close to clear, making way for a re-energized and decisive point of view to emerge.

Don’t Vacillate in a Vacuum, Step Back and Seek Advice

Indecision can arise from the constant rehashing of the same set of data, input, or experiences. Therefore, indecision can be conquered with exposure to new perspective from other stakeholders or from someone not as close to the decision. Having someone else play devil’s advocate, counter your biases, and bring different experiences to the table can help break the stalemate.  

Set Time Bound Parameters for Making the Call

When left to our own devices, it is only natural for us to take as much time as we can to make decisions. Establishing tension in the form of time limitations can help stimulate decision making. Concrete, time-bound parameters (with some teeth to them) can force the perfectionist to compromise and let go a bit.

Sharp Discussions Net Sharp Decisions

We’ve all been in meetings where a decision is supposed to be made, but in fact you are left with no sense of tangible forward progress. The discussion seems circular, someone hijacks the meeting and launches into an unfocused or politically motivated soliloquy, or everyone and anyone jumps in with points that aren’t even on-topic. Free-for-alls like this distract the decider and throw the decision making process off course. The deciding manager needs to be prepared to run a disciplined and pointed meeting that drives toward a decision by asking the right questions, controlling the discussion flow, reigning-in where necessary and expanding discussion where appropriate to get all the information, options and points of view out on the table.


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Scott Mautz is an award winning inspirational key note speaker, course instructor, consultant, and 20+ year executive at Procter & Gamble (where he currently runs a 3 billion dollar business). He is also author of Make it Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning, a book named to the “Best of 2015” list by Soundview Business Books. In Make It Matter, Scott shows that the key to winning back the disengaged (and keeping the engaged, engaged) is to foster meaning at work, that is, give work a greater sense of personal significance, and thus, make work matter. Scott has been a passionate student and practitioner of creating fully energized, fulfilling work environments rich with meaning that ultimately lead to sustained elevated performance and that transform organizational health & satisfaction scores along the way. In seminars and course instruction, and via his book, he has deployed dozens of time-tested and proven practical tools to help managers craft such a meaning-rich ecosystem. Scott was born in New York and has an undergraduate degree from Binghamton University (1991) and an MBA from Indiana University (1994). He lives in Cincinnati with his wife and daughter.

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