Decision-making Questions

Gray areas are dangerous territory. When something is not clear cut and no easy decision can be made, it is a gray area. To help navigate those gray areas, ask yourself several questions:

  • What is the upside versus the downside of doing or not doing this action?
  • What is the wise thing to do?
  • What would a prudent person do?

These questions will make you pause long enough to help you make the right decision. Sometimes you only need to ask one of these but sometimes you should ask all three . You can figure out when to ask which ones.

What is the upside versus the downside of doing or not doing this action?

By definition, decisions mean choosing one thing over another. That means you give up something in favor of something else, and you want to choose correctly. This question asks if the benefits of this decision outweigh any negative consequences. Sometimes a decision made with good intentions can have unintended divisive results and you need to determine ahead of time if that good decision is worth it.  Make sure the downside never overshadows the upside; if there is a chance it will, don’t do it.

What is the wise thing to do?

Andy Stanley wrote a book The Best Question Ever in which he posed this question as THE basis for all life-decisions. I agree – asking yourself “is this the wise thing to do” will always make you stop and ponder the consequences of your upcoming actions. Wisdom is a life skill that increases with age and experience. Even if you are a teenager, asking this question can simply slow you down before committing to something so that you can make that decision in a well-thought-out manner.

What would a prudent person do?

Ask this question especially when there is a legal issue at heart. Let me be more explicit: can you stand in front of a judge and with a clear conscience justify your decision, such as why you spent that money on some product or didn’t spend money on some safety feature? Make sure you have the right reasons for your decision and then proceed.

Leadership is all about decision making. That is pretty much what leaders do all day long: make decisions. Here is my final rule:

Make the right and wise decision based on all the knowledge and information you have at that time. Go full-speed ahead with that decision. As you go along you will gather more information, and if any of that additional knowledge is sufficient to warrant a new decision, then do it. Never stick with a wrong decision in the light of data which can help you make a better decision. Then, make the new decision and proceed full-speed ahead until/unless you get info that will change that decision.

Lead On!