One of the most important skills any leader can develop is the ability to make decisions that produce good people results and business results. Your ability to make effective decisions can impact your career, your team, the future of your organization, and much more.
Common Myths About Decision-Making
Many of us find decision-making a struggle, especially in a rapidly changing world that’s full of (sometimes contradictory) information. Processing all the inputs from other stakeholders or external forces can push us in the direction of decision-making myths.
Some of the most common myths about decision-making revolve around the following behaviors or emotions:
- Speed bias: Especially in a fast-paced environment, the need to move quickly can lead to poor or unwise decisions. It’s easy to justify these decisions by saying, “I don’t have time to gather more input” or “It’s more efficient for me to make these decisions on my own.”
- Avoidance bias: In the face of a complicated or unpleasant decision, it’s tempting to avoid it altogether. We might internally justify our procrastination by thinking we’re avoiding conflict or waiting for someone with more authority or knowledge to decision.
- Confirmation bias: One of the easiest traps to fall into is confirmation bias. When you use information that confirms what you already wanted to do, you may not be making the best decision.
- Rationality bias: Humans fall into the mistaken belief that they are rational creatures, but science shows that humans do not tend to act in rational ways. Telling yourself that your decisions are completely rational may lead to ignoring emotional inputs that actually do factor into your decision-making process.
To help contradict some of these myths and pursue a more effective decision-making process, take a lesson from one of nature’s most effective predators: the cheetah.
The Cheetah Pause
Cheetahs are probably best known as the fastest land mammal on earth, clocking in at speeds near 60 miles per hour.
But researchers have found that when cheetahs are hunting, they usually run at closer to 30 or 40 mph. And while even these speeds are impressive, it isn’t their speed that gives cheetahs an advantage over the antelope; it’s their ability to pivot quickly.
Cheetahs can shorten their stride in just a fraction of a second and quickly change direction with their prey. They have unexpectedly strong bones that absorb impact and finely tuned musculature that enables quick turns.
While a cheetah’s pause in the pursuit of prey takes place in mere milliseconds, it demonstrates the value of shifting in response to changing information and making a decision that, with any luck, will result in a successful hunt.
Decide Like a Cheetah
Cheryl Einhorn suggests that incorporating these “cheetah pauses” into our day can make us more productive and help in decision-making. “These calculated pauses empower you to check and challenge your biases, consolidate your knowledge, include others, and enable you to decide whether to pivot and move in a new direction or stay the course before accelerating again,” she says in her 2021 article, “11 Myths About Decision-Making.”
Using a “cheetah pause” to improve decision-making can help you in three key ways:
- Help you engage in “big picture” thinking: When you are hyper-focused on a decision, it’s easy to lose sight of how that decision will impact other people, your organization, or even your own future goals. Pausing to evaluate other factors in your decision-making process will help you avoid single-factor analysis.
- Involve other stakeholders: Not every decision requires the input of additional stakeholders, but there are clear advantages to team problem-solving. A cheetah pause will give you time to get input from others when necessary.
- Identify fallacies and biases: Because humans are not computers, it’s easy for them to fall prey to fallacies and biases in decision-making. Pausing will give you time to consider whether any of these errors impact your decisions.
Remember, there are no perfect decisions, and every decision has tradeoffs. The best we can do as imperfect creatures is to minimize error and work toward a more effective decision-making process. As you look forward to future decisions, practice employing a “cheetah pause,” you will likely achieve better business and people results.
- Which decision-making myth is the most common one for me to fall into?
- Do I regularly take strategic pauses in decision-making? Why or why not?
- How could a “cheetah pause” improve my decision-making process?