The Subtle Art of Decision-Making

All of us have experienced exhilaration when we give someone great news. We all want to be the first to reveal when we close a deal — or a customer commits to buying our product. But for many diverse reasons, we feel more reluctant to call our friends or colleagues to tell them disappointing news. 

Decision-making is not much different. You can find the definition of decision-making in Wikipedia here. The purpose of this article is to differentiate between straightforward and challenging decisions and understand which path we should follow along our decision-making process. The Germans say, “Schwere Entscheidungen leichtes leben, leichte Entscheidungen schweres leben,“ which translates to: “Hard decisions, easy life — easy decisions, hard life.”

Our agile minds naturally seek to find the easiest way out.  While typical and understandable, it is what differentiates an experienced manager or salesperson from a rookie.

Don’t get me wrong; often, the straightforward, natural solution is a welcome choice, the best one you can make. Navigating the various possibilities is a decision that must be filtered through the capable mind of an experienced decision-maker

Hard decisions, easy life — easy decisions, hard life

Often, decisions must be made against all odds, sometimes even flying in the face of common sense. We must balance our desire to be nice guys, to be liked, with making the best decisions. And often, decisions will lead to conflict because others do not easily understand them.

Decision-making examples: 

Example 1:

A proposal sent from a salesperson to a client is favorably received: their feedback is positive. However, the salesperson does not check to see if the potential client read all the proposal’s requirements, including the terms of the prepayment. 

The salesperson requires a substantial amount of money to start working on the project — before any further action. Money is, most often, the biggest obstacle to closing similar deals. And it might be difficult for this particular client to come up with the funds.

Naturally, we tend to avoid asking unpleasant questions since they could jeopardize the entire sale. But it is precisely those questions we must ask, risking conflict or rejection, to close the deal and complete the sale. The willingness to take that risk is what differentiates an experienced salesperson from a rookie.

Example 2:

A company’s sales manager has not defined or established his professional standpoint.

By not defining his “rules of engagement”, crystalizing his standpoint, he follows his feelings and always chooses the easiest way to appease upper management.

If his method results from a decision-making process (although, ethically, I disagree), he has distinguished himself as a cold-blooded professional who has clarified, within himself, which path he has chosen in life and makes the necessary decisions to follow that path.

But most frequently, we make this decision in the moment because it is, often, the easiest decision. This decision has not come from a clearly defined professional and life standpoint. 

While easily made, this decision will not help you stand out from the crowd. In a management position, this would be doing what management expects from you.

But would you prefer to play it safe, or would you like to feel confident that you have made a decision that will advance your career, support your goals, and reinforce your expertise?

Before making any decision, you must ask yourself:

What will be the outcome of this decision in the long run?

Is it an easy decision to make? If it is, take a deep breath, reflect more deeply, and double-check if that is the right one.

How does this decision fit with your professional and life standpoint? What will you have to show for it?

Alex Valassidis
Alex Valassidis