Characteristics of a Clear Decision
The most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one’s self.
The trick, of course, is to know when you have reached certainty on your decision and to differentiate such situations from the times when you are fooling yourself. In our discussions about clarity in decision-making, many business executives stressed the following three characteristics of reaching a clear decision.
Reaching clarity in a decision is a tremendously positive experience. A decision maker gets charged with the excitement, the energy, and the power of the vision behind the decision and the eventual business accomplishment that this choice will lead to.
Obviously, when a decision necessitates an action that would be detrimental to a party or parties involved, such as a layoff, you do not feel happy, but rather determined, confident in the need to take the action and in the ability to get it accomplished successfully. It is still a positive emotion that allows you to move forward with gusto, power, and confidence.
In other words, if you are making a major strategic decision and feel "blah" about it, try again, because you have not found the right solution.
Commitment to a Vision
After discussion, my immediate reports always knew whether or not I made the decision. And usually, when I did, they lined up and focused on execution.
Larry Bossidy, Retired Chairman of Honeywell International and Former CEO of Allied Signal4
Arriving at a clear decision after a potentially long and difficult pro-cess of looking for the right solution unleashes not only a feeling of excitement or determination in a decision maker, but also a feeling of commitment to a particular vision. This internal alignment and commitment cannot be faked and are visible to subordinates and other parties involved in the execution of a decision.
Minimal Post-Decision Doubts
One major characteristic of a decision reached with clarity is that post-decision doubts are minimized. The number of post-decision doubts during the solution implementation can serve as a verification of whether you reached the right decision.
Go back to your recollection of a decision you made through a clarity moment. How did you feel after the decision was made and you were in the process of executing it? Did you have many doubts? When asked, decision makers say "No doubts whatsoever!" or "We might have changed the path slightly because new information arrived, but no doubts, no..."
Now recollect a difficult decision you made without a feeling of certainty that it was right for you and the business. You might have been pressed for time, looked at all the options, and just picked the one that was the best in your judgment. Did you come back to it later with questions like "Should we have looked at it from another angle?" or "Have we miscalculated? Should we have gone with another option?"? It is common to feel doubtful if the decision was not reached with clarity.
Making any decision may increase your confidence in that decision due to a common cognitive phenomenon that researchers call a "post-decision dissonance reduction5." In most decisions, a selected alternative has some negative features, and the rejected alternatives have some positive features. This situation creates an inconsistency or dissonance in the mind of the decision maker and a desire to create additional cognitive support for the chosen alternative after the decision is made. This phenomenon is also called "bolstering of the chosen alternative6,7."
Bolstering is not necessary when you reach a clear decision in the definition provided earlier in this chapter—when you are internally aligned with the solution emotionally and mentally. No question mark is left in your mind when the decision is made—the choice is certain and clear. When you have to lean on bolstering, it means that you have not reached the certainty level needed for a clear decision.
If you must continually convince yourself that your decision was right after you have made it, you are on the wrong path!