8 Ways to Decisively End Indecision

Guest post by Scott Mautz:

In this
increasingly 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 things to a
halt.  Fear of making a wrong decision
can come into play as well.  We can lose
sight of what the objective behind a decision is in the first place, confusing
ourselves in the process and overcomplicating the choice to be made.   Some
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.
1. Meter your emotions
our emotions can get in the way of making a decision, causing us to gloss over facts
right in front of us or creating a desperate search for information to support the
decision we really want to make. 
Countering indecision may require accepting inevitabilities much sooner while
refusing to let emotions cloud the realities at hand.
2. 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 turns out to be
wrong?”  Such a question may unveil that
the consequences aren’t that dire after all, and may well net much more
decisiveness. Getting comfortable with the possibility of being wrong can
actually help the right decisions happen faster.
3. Consider the risks/costs of not doing
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 that budgets will run
over, competitors will gain precious time for counter plans, or that resources
will have to be further stretched and kept from working on some other
4. 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.
5. Rediscover the plot
simply stepping back and getting some distance from a problem and refreshing
yourself on the importance or objective of a decision to be made 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 to be made may provide a useful
reorientation and illuminate a very clear choice amongst 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.
6. Don’t vacillate in a vacuum, step
back & seek advice
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 to play devil’s advocate, counter your biases, and
bring different experiences to the table can help break the stalemate.
7. Set time bound parameters for making
the call
When left to
our own device, it is only natural for us to take as much time as we can to
decide something. 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 or
those who want it all to compromise and let go a bit.
8. 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 fully 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 towards 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.
Scott Mautz is author of Make It Matter: How
Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning (March 4th, 2015), an
award winning keynote speaker,  and a 20+
year veteran of Procter & Gamble, having run several thriving,
multi-billion dollar divisions along the way. 
Connect with Scott at