HR & Management


What kind of decision maker are you?

7 Mins

Tortoises take ages to make decisions. However, the decisions they make can be good ones: tortoises move slowly but relentlessly towards their goals. Tortoises can fear reversing or adjusting a decision to deal with changing reality: they lack flexibility. 

For them, minor, tactical decisions can end up taking too long: if you spent ages getting the shade of green on your business card exactly right, you need to speed these kinds of decision up. Good enough will do.

Hares always seem to be making decisions. However their decisions are made too hastily – they believe that the quicker the decision, the more ‘decisive’ they are. But actually a lot of their decisions are poor ones, because they have not gone through a proper decision-making process. 

Hares often have to ‘back pedal’: the wise ones end up learning by default the art of adjusting decisions post factum. Being a hare can be useful when confronted with minor, tactical decisions like the tortoise’s business card above. But it’s not the right way to approach bigger strategic ones. Learn to make the distinction, and have a decision-making process for the big ones.

Hippos can never decide. But they secretly love wallowing in the mud of indecision. They often play the victim: “Look at me, stuck in all this mud. It’s all right for you up there on dry land.” They could, of course, decide to crawl out of the mud, but they’re happy there – why bother? This is called ‘secondary gain’ in psychology: hippos get benefits from being stuck such as receiving consoling words or sharing a good moan with fellow hippopotami.

Rabbits (in headlights) freeze when they have to make a decision. They don’t enjoy indecision, the way hippos seem to – they’re just petrified. Rabbits need to learn how to move into a calm space and then follow a process. If they don’t, other people will exploit their fear and force them down paths they may not wish to follow. Rabbits can then get ‘passive aggressive’ as they seek underhand ways of punishing those who have misused them.

Ostriches avoid decisions by hiding their heads in the sand and pretending the need for the decision will go away. Like Mr Micawber, they believe ‘something will turn up’. The something is usually unpleasant.

The above three creatures will be in trouble in business. The good news is that, as in all the best stories, they can change. Get a coach. Learn NLP. Decide to change and then implement that decision. 

Magpies find decision making easy in the face of bright, shiny objects. The answer is ‘Yes!’ They soon end up with a collection of things they don’t really need. A business owner can find him- or herself saying ‘yes’ to too many salespeople with exciting new services / offers etc., especially ones with free introductory periods which then quietly start charging monthly fees (if you are a magpie, be very disciplined about cancelling any of these which are not delivering value).

Magpies can be so busy choosing shiny new objects that they lose focus, and bigger, more difficult decisions remain unmade. Entrepreneurs, who are usually drawn to innovation, can be magpies – watch out for this one! Heed the old saying ‘stick to the knitting’ – many businesses who have poured resources into a ‘sexy’ new project get into trouble as their core business suffers.

Flipper, that lovable dolphin, makes decisions in two ways. He or she makes a load of decisions very quickly. Then, exhausted, Flipper enters a phase of making none at all – till the pressure builds up to make more, when this creature becomes hyper-decisive again. This cycle keeps going round and round. 

At heart, Flipper doesn’t like making decisions, which is why he or she acts this way. However, you can learn to enjoy decision-making. Realize it is not a magic trait but a skill you develop by practice, and understand what the skill involves so you can advance methodically towards mastering the various aspects of it.   

Eagles keep a keen eye on the landscape below them. They appear to be hovering idly – but when they see that something needs to be done, watch them zero in on the problem and act!

Macaques are supposed to be the most intelligent of all non-human animals: they can learn complex behaviours from each other, as well as from their own mistakes. Decision-making is a skill you can learn, by studying how it is done, and by looking back on past decisions and considering what you will do better next time.

Unlike these creatures, whose nature is fixed, you can change. Learn decision-making; make personal changes where necessary. It will be a great adventure.

Robbie Steinhouse’s Making Effective Decisions (published by Pearson Education in ebook) is published on September 12. Robbie is the founder of and author of Brilliant Decision Making, Think like an Entrepreneur and How to Coach with NLP. His new decision-making app DecisioNow is also now available on iTunes.

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