Having trouble deciding?

Too much talking and not much progress



Article Author Sarah Willcox

Sarah Willcox is the Founder of Fairisle Consulting

Decisions are often the cause of frustration and discord. Here are some ideas on how to navigate making decisions, whatever it is that you’re wanting to decide.

Decisions! Decisions!

Ideally, we want decision making to be easy. If it impacts other people, we will want them to agree with the outcome we opt for. Having a range of views as part of decision making is usually key to arriving at a considered decision. We often say there is no-one in the room wiser than the whole room, and certainly it is always valuable to understand where everyone is coming from in a situation.

Sometimes, however, decisions are difficult if it seems that everyone has a say and it’s not clear who has responsibility for the final call. I’m sure you can think of times when you couldn’t seem to reach a decisive outcome. Sometimes there is a lot of talking and not much progress. Other times everyone is waiting for the ideal moment before taking a leap.

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Having trouble deciding?

If your team struggles to make decisions, a good first step is to identify what kind of decision you’re faced with:

  • Is it the kind of decision that can just be made on the weight of numbers? – generally, low stakes options like which restaurant to go to for a team outing
  • Is the consensus view particularly important to the final decision? – ensuring everyone is happy with the direction of travel will increase the likelihood of success, for example
  • Is the decision one where others should have their views heard, but where ultimately a single person needs to decide? – where a leader needs to be clear on a course of action, taking seriously into account the needs and aspirations of her team
  • Or is it the case that only one person can make the call on what happens? – most likely in critical moments when clarity is required


Stay rational



Having clarified this, you should be able to move forward. It may be, though, that having identified where the decision-making responsibility lies, there are additional things to consider. If progress is still not being made, spend a bit of time thinking about what the obstacles are.

  • Is it because some difficult issues are not being fully explored?
  • Are there too many voices in the process, making it hard to discern the most useful course of action?
  • Is your inclination to be consultative getting in the way of committing to a resolution?
  • Are you fearful of the consequences – for you or others – if the outcome goes a bit pear-shaped?

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Take action

We have found that the last two options on the list are the most common reasons for delays in decision-making. But once you’ve correctly identified the problem that you’re trying to solve, the more easily you can take action.

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