Decision Making Skills are Essential for a Good Income

by Guest Contributor · 12 comments

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I ran the marketing team for a technology company in Silicon Valley in my previous job. One of my direct reports, a smart and talented young man, would come to me with virtually every decision he had to make. No matter how many times I explained that I expected him to make decisions himself, he would invariably come to me a few hours later with another. At one point, the email from this individual accounted for about 30% of my daily email traffic. I left my previous position to join my current employer two years ago, but I can tell you that things may not have ended well for this otherwise excellent employee had I stayed with the company. 

Just like my Nervous Nelly report, I was also worried about making decisions when I started my career. However, I soon realized that people not only wanted others to make decisions, they also respect them for taking the initiative when they do. They call it leadership. Yes, you accept responsibility for the consequences of your decisions, which I am guessing is exactly why most people are happier dumping the decision making on the next guy. However, and here’s the punchline, if you are willing to take the risk, people will follow you. And that is the most direct path to career development.

Let me share another secret with you: in the vast majority of cases, any negative consequences of your decision making will be only minor. If you made a mistake, admit it, take responsibility and correct it. No big deal.

If you take my advice and plan to start making more decisions, the trick is to know the difference between those decisions which you can take on your own, and the ones where you must seek input, guidance and yes, sometimes even the decision itself, from other people. That knowledge comes with experience and with a little bit of trial and error, but here are some of guidelines which you can use to make decisions in a business setting: 

  • Size and Importance of the Decision – How critical is the decision to the long term success of your company? The bigger and the more important the decision the more people should be involved in the decision making process.
  • Expertise – Do you have the expertise to take the decision on your own? If there is someone in your organization who has relevant experience or expertise that you don’t have, they should be involved in the process.
  • Bias Against Going to the Boss – Unless your boss tells you that he wants to be involved in a certain project or decision making process, you should rarely go to him for a decision, unless you decide that something is not within your skill set. The whole idea behind an organization is division of labor – what’s the value for your boss in having you around if he still needs to be involved in everything?
  • Information – Do you have enough information to make a decision and can any missing information be collected in a reasonable amount of time? You will be amazed how many people insist on making a decision only when they have 100% of the relevant information. That disease is known as analysis paralysis. Decision making under conditions of uncertainty is what business is all about. You need to have enough information to make an educated decision but often you can’t wait until you know everything for sure.
  • Always Follow the Rules – If your company has a policy that explains what you can and cannot do, you would be well advised to follow it.

Master these decision making criteria and you are well on your way to being an asset for your company and to taking the next step in your career, regardless of whether you are working for a small or large company.

This is a guest post by Shadox of Money and Such . Shadox blogs about personal finance, career, career development, economics and life in general.

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  • Sharon_Miller@Curriculum Vitae Australia says:

    Great advice.

    I think it is important to consider that even the most senior, most highly qualified or experienced professional will have all of the answers all of the time.

    What sets leaders apart from followers, however, is that Leaders are prepared to stand up and make a decision. When you reveiw many of the decisions made by Politicians, War Lords or Religious Heads in history, so many times they got it wrong. Yet, they are rememebred as a great leader.

  • SFaith says:

    I agree with 2cents that major decisions should be made by the whole family. Unfortunately, my family wants no part of decision making. They prefer to leave it all to me.

    I am also self-employed so all work-related decisions are made by me as well. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes. I guess it’s the price one has to pay for being the boss.

  • Andy says:

    Great article and I the association between leadership and accountabiliy is so key in progressing up the corporate ladder. The key is also to learn from bad decisions and ensure you do not repeat them. Some of the best lessons have been from my failures.

  • Ken says:

    Good advice. I agree that you need expert advice sometimes and it’s wise to get it. It’s worth paying for.

  • Mrs. Money says:

    I am a nervous Nelly too. It’s ok. I totally need to work on my decision making skills.

  • John DeFlumeri Jr says:

    Let me compliment you on being a successful corporate Shark, a capable manager. This is a well-informed article.

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  • 2 Cents says:

    Many of these guidelines could also be useful for those of us running a small business known as a “family”. I’ve been frequently guilty of analysis paralysis in managing our finances. I constantly need a push to just do it.

    Also, big decisions like a move or career change should involve the whole family. Likewise, roles need to be sorted out so that the person with the best skill set in a given area handles that part of family functioning. Great food for thought.

  • Mary says:

    No one got compensated for doing nothing, and doing something requires the decision to act. It’s really a part of life, but most people are afraid. If you just stop avoiding decisions, you’ll be ahead.

  • MoneyNing says:

    Decision making is severely lacking in most businesses, and much of it has to do with confidence. As long as you always do something about the mistakes that you make, keep making decisions and pushing forward because our world rewards action.

  • Cd Phi says:

    Great list of things to follow. Leadership is a quality that many employers admire and cherish because they understand that you are willing to take the initiative in starting up something new that may be of value to them. It’s important to sometimes just trust your gut.

  • Craig says:

    Any major decisions should take some time and thought. Not sure if it could lead to a good income or not, obviously a good decision at work could help you better.

  • Great list of thing to think about before acting on impulse.

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