Decisiveness: Your Strategic Tool for Confidence and Productivity
When I’m not writing content for clients, working on my next novel, or running kids to and from school, I referee soccer. Officiating the sport taught me decision making skills on the field that I can apply in the workplace.
The score was 1 to 0 with several minutes left and the blue team was winning. The red team was attacking in the blue team’s zone and made a pass to the top of the penalty area. I was in position behind the ball and close to play. I was at the top of the penalty area, looking up with a wide angle toward the goal, but then …
… the play happened out of my sight, even though it was in front of me and only a few feet away inside the top of the penalty area. I heard a thwack — but a soft sound, not a hard one — and I looked down to see a red player on the ground looking up at me and a blue defender who froze. Everyone looked at me and — my brain stopped working for one second, two seconds and then I yelled, “Play on.”
A red player shouted, “Come on, ref, that’s a penalty kick.” She muttered that the defenders all stopped because they expected me to call a PK.
The game was played evenly and I had kept control throughout the match and had no problems making decisions. Now, the red team got frustrated and as time wound down, I had to make a series of quick and fair decisions to keep the game under control. I had to win back some of the credibility I lost in an instant because I was indecisive for two seconds.
Indecision: A Confidence Killer
What happened? Why didn’t I see the play occur and call a PK? Although I was close to play, I was looking up and wide so I didn’t see the incident.
In the second after it occurred, I took another second to run the play through the Video Assist Review of my mind and here’s what I decided: that I had seen the players playing through similar incidents on the field and they kept playing without saying anything.
I had a fleeting doubt and that moment raised the ire of the losing team and gave them doubts about my decision making. In soccer, as in other sports, those doubts can lead to retaliation and the match or game getting out of control. Fortunately, I had just enough experience to reel in the players.
Use Experience for Future Decision Making
Driving home, I analyzed the play and decided that if the same situation happened in future games I would know what I would do. My answer is for me to know and the rest of the world to try and figure out.
Experience helps and gaining experience in critical moments as a sports official, a parent, or a workplace leader can be a painful process.
Log the happenings, learn from them, get input from others and put the moments into your mental catalog. Next time, you’ll be more prepared and decisions will come easier.
Life’s Constant Twists and Turns Require On-Going Decisions
The more people you have in your life and the greater your level of responsibilities then the more decision-making you’ll have to do on an on-going basis.
We’ve had several kids, faced many on-going crisis moments, and have lived in many out-of-control circumstances as I noted in my article Embracing the Benefits of Counseling. I’ve worked in grassroots nonprofit organizations and have worked as a writer-entrepreneur so I am on the front lines of making decisions and taking responsibilities. I don’t have a wall of employees to hide behind. I am it.
I’ve realized that decisions need to be made but it doesn’t mean they have to stress me out. I can take control.
Not making decisions leads to inaction and to a place that business coach and consultant Jim Palmer calls Squishyville in his book, Decide: the Ultimate Success Trigger.
Squishyville is where nothing happens. Vacillating takes time, costs money and does nothing to address the issue at hand. His advice is to forget about being perfect or fearing success. Make decisions and move forward.
Don’t Fear Making Decisions; Use Resources
The importance of making decisions as a soccer referee pales in comparison to the decisions we have made that have impacted our family. My wife and I adopted our children out of the foster care system. We said yes to our six kids who are now adults, but we did say no to a few. We weren’t in the position to take them at the time.
As parents, decisions faced us in school issues and complex parenting since our kids came to us with levels of trauma that few children experience. We had a resource in the form of a man we respected who was a well-respected psychologist.
He was a blessing and went beyond what he was paid since he gave us his constructive input and often asked how we were doing.
During a time when I had a marketing consultancy with a partner, we faced the decision of moving from working in our homes to setting up an office and paying rent. We weren’t sure how to decide so we called on someone else we respected who was a successful businessman and knew what we were trying to achieve.
He helped us break down the issue.
We made a pros and cons list, but he also asked how the move would help our company’s status and if it would raise esteem in the eyes of our existing clients. It gave us a central area to meet with prospective clients so we went for it and the move paid off.
Today, I’m faced with decisions outside my own work and immediate family. I’ve flown back east to help my father with his needs and I’ve found myself deciding on when I’d go back next. It’s not been easy since it’s inconvenient. I need to jot down the issues that unsettle me and then address those.
Creating a Guide for Making Decisions
While working for a nonprofit where I was tasked with recruiting foster and adoptive families and volunteers from local churches, I planned a recruitment push.
The organization was given a substantial grant to recruit more families and I needed to draw up plans. I consulted with the other staff and volunteers and then decided to have smaller regional kick-offs and celebrations of the work that foster and adoptive parents do.
I had no guarantee that the plan would work, but it did and we bumped our recruitment numbers and built relationships with our target audience — the local churches.
Decisions come at us furiously and sometimes they unfold over time.
A Decision Making Framework
What’s the goal?
I had to recruit new foster and adoptive families. With a marketing consultancy and as a writer, I’ve had to find new clients — make sales. Doing regional kickoffs wasn’t going to work year in and year out, but it did for two years in a row.
I had to jump-start activity. I had to get something going. The regional kickoffs were a good decision because nothing else was happening and it would get volunteers involved. If nothing else, it would serve as a catalyst for recruitment.
Sales happen in a similar way. Whether you’re an author who wants to sell some novels or you’re responsible for business development are sales flat — at zero — or is something positive happening?
Know what your goal is and then once you jump start activity then something positive is going to happen. You can adjust methods in the future.
Keep a Notebook
I’m a firm believer in jotting down ideas, concerns, and problems. The physical act of writing can free our minds and make decisions easier and more freeing. It can help us sift through the noise from our own attitudes and those around us.
Is Consensus Building Necessary?
Decision making is an art and not just a linear equation. If making decisions with a team, clearly explain the goal and if you ask for input make sure the pros, cons are categorized.
We live in a world of cause and effect so in a team meeting, or brainstorming decisions with others, setting up an infograph approach will help.
If we decide A, then the result is B. Or, if we decide to do X, then the result is going to be Y.
An article in the Harvard Business Review, 3 Ways to Improve Your Decision Making, notes that making predictions and judgments are necessary requirements. Understand historical trends and past experiences as I’ve noted above.
A decision has an impact. Understand the results. But don’t waffle. Not making a decision is paralyzing.
Cost Benefit Analysis
Run possible decisions through a cost benefit analysis grid. This works for large and small decisions.
If you’re a company that’s rolling out a new product or service, what’s your marketing and advertising budget? Will it take marketing dollars away from an established program? If so, that’s the cost.
But the benefit could be marvelous — a whole new audience reached. What if the new marketing effort bombs? Do you have a contingency plan? If so, you can likely dig out of the hole.
Family Decision Making
My parents drove me crazy. My dad would start making a decision on where to go eat and then he’d stop and wait for my mom’s approval. But sometimes she didn’t decide and just got irritated the longer he went without deciding and then a mini-argument often erupted.
Family decision-making is just as important as making decisions in a large corporation or a small business that’s growing and bursting at the seams. It’s where we live our lives at an intimate level and it can affect us deeply.
Use a cost benefit analysis for family decisions. Should we spend an afternoon at the beach or head to the mountains? Or — ? Do we sit in Squishyville and get frustrated?
Do I take a new job that requires me to have a longer commute and be away from home more or not?
Should I spend hours writing articles on Medium while someone else takes the kids to their events?
Answers to those questions aren’t going to be neat and simple. In the case of where to spend a few hours as a family, just decide. Choose one and do it and don’t think about the pain of closing the door on an option.
For something like taking a new job or moving, what’s the long-term benefit? What’s the real reason behind what you’re deciding and can it bring you closer together as a couple or as parents and kids?
And then decide. Take action. Don’t wait. Decision making only gets harder if you do. Taking action can feel good. And you’re not going to ruin a plan from the cosmos if you decide something and then find out you need to change course. That’s a common result anyway.
But you are you. Build yourself up. Decision making requires a level of courage while rocking back and forth heightens anxiety.
Make that call. Be clear and hold your head high. Take control of the match that you’re involved in.
Don Simkovich has decided to march ahead in his own career of writing content for businesses while working on his fourth novel in the Tom Stone Detective series … in addition to having an active family and being a decision maker on the soccer field.
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