“Making decisions is one of the most important things we do as leaders. It’s funny how people can work their whole lives to achieve positions in which they influence or get to make decisions only to find it’s not always fun” — Thomas Buchholz, MD.
Dr. Buchholz is the medical director of a major cancer center on the west coast. He’s also a genius and all-round phenomenal human. My admiration for him as a person and leader knows no bounds.
Some time ago he penned a note answering the question, “How do you know if you’re making the right decisions?”
The below are his words shared here for your benefit — to help you make better decisions.
Dr. B’s Keys to Making Better Decisions:
Admit You Can’t Know Everything
Admitting you don’t always know the answer isn’t a sign of weakness and should never be a threat to your self confidence. Rather, this admission allows you to be receptive to perspectives that may differ from your original point of view.
Surround Yourself with Differing Views
Because no one has a comprehensive portfolio of expertise, it’s critical to surround yourself with highly effective people who have different opinions and complementary skill sets.
Learn from Challenging Situations
We can’t expect every decision to result in a win for all. As leaders, there are times when we’re going to feel bad about actions we take. During these times, we should focus on how to learn from that situation.
Appreciate Your Friends and Peers Who Don’t Hesitate To Tell You When You’ve Messed Up
It’s the only way you’ll grow.
Additional Thoughts I Have on Making Better Decisions:
“I Don’t Know”
The smartest people I’ve encountered in life and my career are not afraid to say “I don’t know.” Too often, I think we’re encouraged to speak up and have an opinion (without the right and/or enough data points) and often the loudest, most confident opinion isn’t correct.
I have a lot of respect and admiration for leaders who are willing to say “I don’t know.”
I’m reminded of Charlie Munger’s quote on the work required to have an opinion:
“I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.”
Once I understood the value of exposing myself to differing views, I also learned the power of integrative thinking – going beyond binary options and facing the tension of opposing ideas in order to generate an innovative resolution that makes the new idea superior to the original options.
Honest, Constructive Feedback
I so love (the few) people willing to provide constructive feedback. Those feedback loops, from honest and intelligent friends and colleagues, are so critical to growth. I always try to follow-up and let the giver know how I applied their feedback and the results. I’ve found that it’s the best way to keep getting more feedback.
In my experience, this feedback expedites my learning faster than books and online research.
Check out Dan and Chip Heath’s book, Decisive – How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work. In Decisive, the Heaths introduce a four-step process designed to counteract the array of biases and irrationality that disrupt our decisions. (My notes here.)
Also, considering how you will measure your life is a worthwhile exercise that will help you align your decisions to your life’s purpose.
This blog started primarily as a marketing blog, but now I write much more about work/life, social psychology, health and happiness. I will also continue to explore top performers (authors, entrepreneurs, business leaders and more) and dissect what we can take away to be top performers in our own work and personal lives.
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