The Key To Effective Decision Making In Business And In Life

For most of her pregnancy my wife, Angela felt glowing and radiant. When I met her after work one day she was not her assured self. In fact she was a bit upset. She had just got some blood test results back from her doctor and there was some concerning news. "They have picked the presence of a certain bacteria which, if passed on to the baby during the birth process can be fatal for our baby," she explained. There is something about hearing the word 'fatal' in the same sentence as "our baby" that hits you hard in the stomach.

"What do they say to do?" I asked.

"They say that both myself and the baby have to be on IV antibiotics for the following three days and we probably won't be able to have a natural birth," she explained getting more and more upset.

We could have just accepted the doctor's decision as final but both of us had a nagging feeling that something wasn't quite right about this situation.

"Let's not make a decision when we're feeling upset." I suggested." Let's calm down, collect some facts and then make a decision. Okay?" Angela nodded her head in approval and sighed with relief that this decision didn't have to be made immediately.

Letting Angela rest, I went for a walk to clear my head. With a calm head on my shoulders I returned to my office and made a few phone calls, sent a few emails and spent a couple of hours online researching the topic. What we discovered was that there was a simple test that could be conducted immediately after the birth that could determine if the baby was infected with the bacteria. So rather than pumping drugs into my wife and newborn baby as a precaution it made better sense for us to first test to see if it was needed. We felt happy with this approach.

When we suggested this to the specialist he agreed that this would be a satisfactory way to address these concerns although it departed from the routine hospital protocol. As it turned out, all tests conducted on our newborn son Daniel came back completely clear so no medication was required.

You may be wondering what my wife's pregnancy has to do with making business decisions?

In business and in home life we are often faced with such challenging decisions that we must make. Likeany decision about the health of your own child,many business decisions canevoke a wide range of emotions.Many of these business decisions need to be made promptly. Others require careful consideration over time. It many circumstances such as ours it would have been easy for us to make a rushed decision out of fear, panic or intimidation. When you let negative emotions override your need to properly look at the facts you generally end up regretting the consequences that you overlooked in your haste.

On the hand many tough decisions get delayed or not made at all because we are paralysed with fear. It's a fear of making the wrong decision. But sitting on your hands will eventually cause more problems. You need to look no further than the current economic climate to witness the ramifications of decades of not making tough decisions by financial executives and governments.

So how can you be more decisive and calm when under pressure?

Business analysts would recommend analysing the facts, weighing up the pros and cons and making a decision based on the data at hand. This left brain only approach completely disregards one powerful tool used by all great leaders: your instincts. When you use your instincts in combination with your research you get the analysis without the paralysis.

How do you use your instincts in the decision making process?

Firstly you need to begin to pay attention to your emotions. What this means is that you can consider using your emotions as additional feedback to prospective decisions.

To begin this process it is essential for you to be in a positive frame of mind when making a decision. I don't mean that you need to be jumping up and down, ready to walk barefoot over hot coals. You just need to be calm and content. So if you are angry, irritable or frustrated you should not be making any decisions until you have calmed down.

When you are in this calm frame of mind then you are ready to look at the information at hand and request advice from others if necessary.

As potential solutions are offered to you and come into your mind, here is the time when you should notice your feelings. Go with the solution that gives you the best feeling. It is that simple. I call it the 'sleep at night' test.

I know some of you may think that it is ludicrous to base a business decision on emotion. You think that business is business and that emotion should not come into play. It should be based upon solid facts. To those people I would disagree on two counts:

1) I am not advocating to abandon research and due diligence in any decision making process. I am recommending using your emotions as additional feedback.

2) Most business decisions are based upon emotion except many of the decisions are based upon less than fulfilling emotions such as greed, desire for power and control, revenge and fear. Anyone who has been watching the stock market you can testify to its less than logical course over the years. It is these negative emotions that have resulted in the absence of proper due diligence in the decision making process.

In my experience over the years, whether it is to do with the buying/selling of investments, choosing a marketing strategy, staff recruitment or the health of our unborn son when you listen to your emotions and act upon them, your decisions will never let you down.


Dr. Paul Lanthois is a chiropractor, speaker and work life balance expert. He is the director of The Work Life Balance Foundation which provides health, stress management and work-life balance lifestyle programs specifically for businesses and their employees. Dr. Lanthois has been a successful Australian chiropractor for nearly 20 years. He has spoken to many business and community groups such as Optus Telecommunications,&nb...

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