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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Education and Career - 2 Approaches to Making Hard Decisions in a Crisis

Education and Career

2 Approaches to Making Hard Decisions in a Crisis

CEOs and leaders are required to make decisions under extreme uncertainty during this global pandemic. It’s unfortunate having to decide whether to downsize, who to lay off and which, if not all, essential programs to cancel. In reality, leaders across all industries are being pressed to push swift decisions on controlling costs. Hanging on the line are their reputations with clients, safeguarding both their market share and their financial wellbeing.

And all the while working remotely, managing remotely and supporting their families.

A lot of mental effort is required in decision making. And it can be scary when you aren’t certain if you’re headed in the best direction. When your back is pushed against the wall, you may want to act fast. But is this the right thing to do? Here are two researched-based approaches to consider.

Getting out of your own way.  Remember, you must be emotionally, physically and intellectually fit to render flexible, accurate, and thorough decisions. This is obvious in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. A psychologist suggests often it is our mindset—not our circumstances—that matters. Sometimes it’s the mental clutter that paralyzes you in the midst of making swift and right decisions. Your self-sabotaging actions can be a crisis within itself. For example, you can bring on self-generated stress by failing to prioritize, failing to see and implement the simplest solutions to the challenge or failing to maintain a balance between being cautious or carefree. Getting out of your own way requires that you are able to spot your negative thinking habits and worst-case-scenario ideas. All you have to do is tweak both your thinking and your behavior. Here’s how:

  • Identify deeply-held beliefs that steer your decisions. For example, the belief “I must make the perfect decision” might drive you to stall or even fear being criticized. A strategy to help might be to replace to the unattainable standard of perfection with a more accurate standard such as “I will make the best possible decision”. Thinking along these lines will shift your perfectionist behavior to a flexible behavior to help push back on stress.
  • Balance your emotions. An easy way to get out of your way is learning when to show emotions and when not to. When you leverage your positive emotions as Dr. Barbara Fredrickson’s research has shown, it helps you to broaden your mind and build your creative thinking resources such as becoming solution-focused, which builds your psychological strengths.

Catching your bias. When making hard decisions or a decision at any level, you want to avoid bias at all costs. Cognitive bias is having the tendency to make irrational decisions or take illogical actions.  For example, you may look for information that supports your existing beliefs, and reject data that goes against what you believe; jump to conclusions; place too much faith in your own knowledge or see the future based on the past. These are dangerous as they can lead to missed opportunities and poor choices. Here’s how to catch biases like these.

  • Challenge information and data. Discuss your ideas and strategies with an outsider. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed by doing this. Ask the person to play devil’s advocate and challenge your intended direction.
  • Review your decision making history. Look for times you may have rushed to judgment in the past. If you’re considering laying off your people, first analyze the consequences. Write it out on paper. Then consider the consequences if you don’t. Then make the comparison.
  • Evaluate all of your options in one swoop. When you put everything on the table before you all at once you’re less prone to bias.
  • Look at trends from different angles. This helps to not look at information chronologically but through a different lens.

With tensions at an all-time high, successful decision making requires careful personal preparation. I am not referring to only getting the facts and data straight because poor decisions can still surface with having good data.

You want to slow-down mindless reactions, removed distractions for flexible, accurate and thorough thinking and at best, trust your ability to make the right call.  Remember, your brain is cheering for you. It wants you to feel confident and safe. While in a crisis, a healthy place to start is a place of humility and awareness that perhaps you really don’t know what is the best decision.

Written by Dr. Deana Murphy. Have you read?

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - Education and Career - 2 Approaches to Making Hard Decisions in a Crisis
Dr. Deana Murphy
Dr. Deana Murphy is an internationally recognized executive wellbeing strategist and leadership educator. Her most recent book is LEAD2FLOURISH: The Executive’s Guide to Handle Pressure, Prevent Anxiety, and Lead From Your Highest Self. Visit

Dr. Deana Murphy is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with her through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website CLICK HERE.