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3 Ways to Develop Decisiveness

Sally Schott

April 12, 2019 > thumnail

A common development area for many emerging leaders, especially women, is decisiveness. At the beginning of starting a SOAR leadership development program, participants undergo a set of assessments to help them identify their leadership strengths and development areas.

Decisiveness, defined as “choosing a course of action with speed and ease,” frequently stands out as a development area for the women in our programs.


Although, this may be an area of gender bias, as women leaders are often encouraged to take the time to find consensus when making decisions, while men may be encouraged to “rush for the finish line.” But gender bias aside, recent research has found that decisiveness is a critical leadership skill. The ability to make decisions with speed and conviction is one of four traits that set successful CEOs wp-content/plugins/wordpress-importer/​
 and, most important, acting decisively is a key part of building our gravitas and executive presence.

To help emerging women leaders improve their decisiveness, SOAR recently held a workshop on this topic.

The high-potential women who participated told us that their top two challenges for making decisions with conviction and speed are:

  1. Needing time to gather more information and perform analysis
  2. Being afraid of making the wrong decision

In our workshop, we focused on three key principles to help the women reduce their decision-making time and overcome their fear of making the wrong decision:

  1. Not all decisions are created equal
  2. Monitoring decisions is just as important as making decisions
  3. You can ‘hack’ your way to being more decisive

#1: Not all decisions are created equal

It is important to teach our emerging leaders that many business decisions can be made quickly, especially those where ‘best practice’ is commonly known or when the risk of making a bad decision is low.  It is only when we need to make decisions about highly complex situations or decisions that require specialized knowledge or ‘testing and learning’ we will need to spend a lot of time gathering detailed information and performing analyses. Moreover, there may be times of crisis where leaders need to make quick decisions, despite uncertainty and complexity, in order to provide stability to the rest of the organization.  We can coach our emerging leaders on how to identify a complex, higher-stakes decision versus a straightforward or lower-stakes decision, so they can make straightforward decisions more swiftly.

#2: Monitoring decisions is just as important as making decisions

As leaders in ever-changing business environments, we will make wrong decisions during our careers. That’s why it is critical for us to make sure we are closely monitoring the outcomes of our decisions so we can pivot if needed.  Understanding that bad decisions happen and having good decision monitoring systems in place can help our emerging leaders overcome their fears of making the wrong decision.

#3: You can ‘hack’ your way to being more decisive

We encourage high-potential women to use some of the following ‘hacks’ to quickly improve how decisive they appear to their colleagues:

  • Use the word “decision” often when communicating your decision. For example, “After careful consideration, I have decided . . . We have come to the decision that we will . . . This decision means . . . “
  • Remove little decisions so that you can focus on big decisions. Don’t waste valuable mental energy on small things such as what to eat, what to wear, or what to do on Friday nights.
  • Set a time limit. Force yourself to make decisions under tight “deadlines.” Communicate when you’ll make a decision and then follow through.