+Scott Watson

Monday, 27 July 2009

Questions to help someone make a decision

If you haven't already encountered this, you will do at some point in your management career. Indeed, you might be doing this already - not making a decision on important matters. We all procrastinate on some occasions, but it is important not to confuse procrastination with thinking time.

Whereas thinking time is the gap we create for ourselves to reflect quietly, consider options, benefits and drawbacks prior to making a decision (and the best decisions are usually made following a period of quiet contemplation), procrastination is more related to our personal fear of something either happening or not happening. It's the 'Oh, it's only a small job so I'll do it later' and 'Oh my god, If I screw up this decision, I'll be in for an ear bashing' syndrome.

At work, there is likely to be an occasion or two when we want to get a decision from someone, it could be a commitment from a person who is performing below par and needs to raise their game or your boss who has a hundred different decisions to make and bosses to please, so the decision you require keeps getting delayed. So here are a few questions you can ask to help someone make a good decision.

What information do you require (from me or from elsewhere) to make a decision now/today? - This helps the person think about what they need, not what you are offering and helps them be more response-able for their thinking.

If you had already made the most appropriate decision on this (subject) what information, data and other factors would you have considered to reach your decision? - This puts them in the position of having already made the decision and takes a different thinking position. Acting 'AS IF' is a very effective thinking technique.

Could you please help me understand what stops you from making a decision/approving my decision? - This helps to unblock thinking and may draw out sensitive information or even a blind spot.

If your boss was advising you of what decision to make that was good for all stakeholders, what would s/he recommend to you? - This gets the person to consider what their boss would appreciate and disapprove of. Bear in mind, people often comply with authority, so it's essential the decision is not made purely on position in a structure chart.

An unwillingness to make a decision is a decision in itself. If we are to help people make better quality decisions, we must provide them with the time and space to think for themselves.

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