Powerful Decision-Making Techniques for Great Results

Decision-making is a skill that we generally develop on our own through our individual life experiences.    Although it is a critical skill, most of us learn to make decisions through trial and error with little input on how to use an effective decision-making process.  Let’s face it,

How often have you been in a situation where you have a choice to make that could affect your company image, business revenue, your cost of providing your product or service, and you feel paralyzed?  A critical decision needs to be made and you can’t seem to pull your thoughts together and figure it out.  How do you choose, and what happens if you don’t?

Sheena Iyengar of the Columbia University Business School explains that we often struggle with what she calls “choice overload,” and offers some valuable suggestions based on her research on how and why we choose, and what we can do to improve the way in way we make decisions leading to better results.

  1. Ask yourself how your options are different from one another, and then cut down your number of choices.   It may seem counter-intuitive, but by eliminating options you will find it easier to process what the potential effects of each possible choice might be, making your choosing experience easier.                                                When people have too many choices they may procrastinate or even decide not to choose.  They may make a poor choice because their main concern is to make a choice rather than focusing on what that choice should be.  Once a decision has been made they may feel a kind of “buyer’s remorse” because they were not happy with their decision-making process.
  2. Make the choices felt in a concrete way.  For example, imagine you are planning a new advertising campaign and have 3 options to choose from.  Ask yourself about all the possible things that would change if you chose each option.  Then imagine yourself handing over a check to pay to place the ad.   Decision-making is be much easier if you can make the results of each choice feel real to you.
  3. Divide options into categories that are relevant to you.    You may put decisions into categories like marketing, or client relations.  Should your time and financial resources be utilized to produce long- or short-term results?
  4. As you go through your decision-making process, start with simple questions and then move to the more complex.  This drill-down process will help you to ease your way into the smaller details of your decision, and you will develop clarity regarding which of your choices best matches your purpose.

The success or failure of small businesses hinges on the ability of the owner to make the best possible choices.  If you were to rate yourself on a scale of 1-10, 1 being not happy with how you make decisions and 10 being you are perfectly satisfied with your process and results, where would you be?

I welcome learning your thoughts on decision-making.

Contact me for information on my Small Business Owners 3 Month Action Plan Program

Apologies Along the Way

Apologies Help Us Climb the Ladder

It happens to all of us at one time or another; we miss appointments, forget commitments, or make promises we can’t keep.

CC image courtesy of Matt Elsberry, “Rope and Dowel ladder”: http://www.flickr.com/photos/matt_elsberry/4385892743/

Sometimes things happen that are beyond our control, and sometimes, for any number of reasons, we abrogate our responsibility to others.

What do you do when you are the offending party? That depends on who you are.  Are you a person who feels guilty for having broken promises, wasted someone’s time or let someone down in some way?  If you are, congratulations!  It means you have a conscience, and a conscience is a critical character trait to help you achieve success, both in business, and in life.

When you hold yourself personally responsible for your actions, you can take the credit for your own achievements, but more than that, you have the ability to determine the quality of your life.

Recently I asked a new business contact for an introduction to someone whom I wanted to meet.  That contact very kindly made the connection in a professional and courteous way.  So far so good, right?

Well, sometimes things blow up, and unfortunately for me, I was called to help a friend who had a crisis and needed immediate assistance.  Naturally, all thoughts of a low-key business conversation blew out of my mind and it wasn’t until the situation had been rectified that I realized I had missed an appointment for a phone conversation with someone I very much wanted to meet.

What were my options in that situation?

  1.  I could have blown both contacts off and moved on;
  2.  I could contact both people and apologize and reschedule the call.

Obviously option one is a dead end, but option 2 turns out to be rewarding.

Writing letters of apology or apologizing in person are both uncomfortable activities, but success and satisfaction have to be earned. Dealing with uncomfortable situations is the way we earn both self-respect, and the respect of others (I’ve never been a fan of “self-esteem” because it does not appear to me to have that element of being earned.)

These are the surprising, and powerful, benefits that turned up from taking that uncomfortable step:

  1. Both people very graciously forgave me.
  2. They saw that I take responsibility seriously.
  3. They saw that respect them and their time.
  4. The delayed conversation and developing relationship were not lost.
  5. I have the distinct pleasure of feeling gratitude to them for giving me a second chance, and to the universe for providing me with the ability to feel gratitude.

What could be better than that?!  All successful relationships, no matter their context, can only be based on foundations of mutual trust and respect.  When we treat clients, vendors, friends and family with respect and gratitude, we help one another climb the ladder to success.

Even Superman Had His Super Friends….

Small Business owners fill multiple roles in their operations, but it is important to realize that success doesn’t come in a vacuum.  As a business owner it is your responsibility to be aware of key roles necessary for business success and to choose the people who will be most able to support and assist you on the journey.
A client recently came to me because her business had hit a plateau and was not progressing past a certain level no matter how she tried to move it forward.  She had been in business for about 2 years and her company had grown steadily until a few months ago.  Her client relationships were excellent, so she couldn’t understand why her monthly sales numbers were not climbing.
During our sessions we came up with some questions for my client to ask herself.  This self-assessment opened her eyes to some surprising information about herself and her business. Some of the questions we asked were:
  • Why did you target this particular market?
  • How did you arrive at your pricing?
  • What about your company has changed in terms of things like capabilities, services and expenses?
  • How have you incorporated your new capabilities into your message?
  • What has been the response of your existing clients to the changes?
She had been so focused on working that she hadn’t realized it was time to hand off functions so she could spend her time doing what she does best, providing her clients with an excellent service.  It was time for her to expand and add team members to help deliver her message.
The addition of a professional marketing company to produce new collateral material that told a more up-to-date story of her company capabilities provided a great tool for bringing in new clients and more business from existing clients.  As a result, her revenues have expanded and margins have increased. She has also acquired new clients, a new team member and bookkeeper.
Naturally, how you build your team depends on many factors, including capital resources, projected revenue and margins.  A thorough look at who is on (or Not on) your team is an important step in the growth of your business. So you have to stop and ask yourself,  Who is on your team?

Fear as a Success Tool: A Personal Story

Fear as Success ToolSometimes our greatest fear leads to our greatest growth. When I first began my private coaching practice, I was terrified of being a visible leader. I did some pretty impressive things, but always gave the credit to someone else and let them shine. Often they didn’t want to accept the credit, but couldn’t convince me to stand in the spotlight. This same situation occurred on an almost regular basis for most of my life. I didn’t recognize the pattern until very recently, when I realized it was the result of growing up in an unstable and high-stress family environment.

One day my coach asked me to write a presentation which I would deliver to him in our next session. Now this was a private session. I would only have an audience of one, and that one was very definitely one of my primary supporters, but just knowing that he was expecting me to speak was enough to send me right into the deepest pit of fear I have, revealing myself and demonstrating leadership. My reaction to this assignment was extreme. On the day I sat down to write my presentation, I found myself quaking and crying uncontrollably.

Now for those who don’t know me, I’m not a shrinking violet type who stays in their comfort zone and lives a quiet, safe little life. Quite the contrary, I’m a world traveler, runner, weight-lifter, very politically engaged and not afraid to venture an opinion about anything on my mind. Despite being an extrovert, I was paralyzed with fear by the prospect of being in the spotlight. I had to dig deep to pinpoint where my fear resided and how to turn it into something positive.

Any one of us can be stuck in place by fear of the unknown. The key to turning fear into an asset is by the process of connecting with your fear in a non-threatening way, so you can observe it without reacting to it. I know it sounds like theoretical talk but it is truly effective. It takes some doing and is most effective when you can work with someone else, like a coach or therapist who can help you stay objective. You will learn so much about the origins of that fear, why it developed and how it is affecting you in the present moment.

Some questions you can ask yourself questions about you fear are:

  • When is the first time I remember this happening?
  • What am I really afraid of?
  • How real is the danger?
  • How has it affected me in the past?
  • How is it affecting me in the present?
  • What would be different if I wasn’t held back by this fear?
  • How much do I want that different result?
  • What am I willing to do to move past this fear?

If you find that fear is holding you back from responding positively to challenges and from achieving success in your business and your life than test yourself by taking one single action step. If you are still unable to move forward positively – reach out to a coach that is trained in helping business owners make impactful next steps toward their vision of success. Remember, “No man is an island complete unto himself.” That includes small business owners!