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8 Traps to Avoid When Making Fact Based Decisions

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Many people pride themselves in trusting their gut when it comes to decision making. You may have heard that successful leaders have excellent gut instincts. Don’t be misled by this broad statement. The gut, regardless of how skilled it may be, can trap the best of us into a cycle of poor decisions.

There’s a fact-based approach to making decisions that’s been proven to work by the science of quality management. For over a century, global industry giants have relied on this science to drive outcomes. It tells us that the probability of achieving a desired long-term outcome dramatically increases when you embrace and apply it to your decisions. The approach has been studied, tried, and tested. Based on industry experience, global leaders recognize and watch out for known traps that can easily derail decision making at every level.

The same traps can derail your focus on making fact-based decisions.  Here’s what to watch for as you strive to make fact-based decisions:

Trap 1: The Feelgood Faker

Many people are driven by emotions when it comes to decision making. The urge to move toward things that make us feel good and avoid things that make us feel bad is part of being human.  Be open and willing to allow discomfort when making decisions. Sometimes the best decisions will require you to change, move, give up something, work harder than you expected, delay gratification, etc.

Trap 2:  The Time Trickster

A sense of urgency, as well as procrastination, can trap us into making emotionally driven decisions. Quick decisions are more likely to be gut related. Recognize that the quickest, easiest solution is not always the best. Take a deep breath and follow the process while also not procrastinating. Don’t delay unnecessarily. The farther away from an incident, or opportunity for decision making, the tougher it is to identify and understand the facts. 

Trap 3: The Blind Corner Smash

Understand the difference between objective and subjective information when preparing to make a fact-based decision.  Objective information is factual. You cannot change it even if you would like to. It is what it is. Subjective information is driven by individuals. In other words, it’s made up of opinions, emotions, wishes, dreams, preferences, and such. You own your subjective information, and it can be anything you want it to be. The trick is understanding that you don’t own anyone else’s.

“You cannot make progress without making decisions.” – Jim Rohn

Trap 4: The Power Sucker

Once you clearly recognize the objective facts at play, and the subjective elements within your power to change, you can activate that power through decision-making. Decisions based on subjective information that you cannot control can quickly or slowly suck away your incredible power to create the outcome you envision.

Trap 5: The Blind Spot Blinder

Blind spots are tough to see. They can leave us wondering why our “excellent decision” turned out to be the opposite. Proactively seek to identify potential blind spots when making decisions — this often calls for courage, humility, and a growth mindset.

Trap 6: The Widespread Net Debacle

We all want and need to discuss big decisions with others. But carefully consider who is giving you advice, including their unique and subjective perspective. Great leaders accept responsibility for decision making, and therefore are purposeful when seeking input and advice.

Trap 7: The Root Cause Wrecker

Misunderstanding the root cause, or reason, why a decision must be made can wreck your thought process. Take the time to ensure that the decision/options you’re considering will address the root cause involved.

Trap 8: The Horizon Blocker

When making decisions, be careful not to overfocus on the immediate future. Look to the horizon, consider what you’re building, and keep your eye there.  Despite what you may have heard, your life is not a process but rather a product that you can build to meet your authentic specifications. The science of quality management provides concepts and approaches proven to work.  You can be as specific or as general as you wish, but committing and focusing on an outcome that has meaning to you is critical, and should always be top of mind when making decisions.

Gut reactions and emotions certainly play an integral role in decision making. Hopefully, our gut doesn’t let us down when it comes to our immediate personal safety or other scenarios that leave us with nothing to rely on but our instincts. However, don’t let your gut fool you, or get trapped by blindly believing that your instincts are always right. If guts were right every time, the world would be a different place.

Penelope Przekop is a corporate quality management expert, entrepreneur, and writer. Throughout her 30+-year career, she has worked with numerous Fortune 100 pharma companies, including Pfizer, Merck, Lilly, and Glaxo Smith Kline, and held leadership positions at Novartis, Covance, Wyeth, and Johnson & Johnson. She is the founder and CEO of PDC Pharma Strategy and serves as the Chief Compliance Officer for Engrail Therapeutics. She is the author of Six Sigma for Business Excellence (McGraw-Hill) and four novels: Please Love MeAberrationsCenterpieces, and Dust. Przekop earned a BS in Biology from Louisiana State University and an MS in Quality Systems Engineering from Kennesaw State University. She is a graduate of the Smith College Program for Women’s Leadership and the Rutgers University Senior Leadership Program for Professional Women. In 2018, Przekop and her older daughter founded Bra in a Box, which has been featured in Real Simple and New York Magazine. She lives in the Greater Philadelphia Area with her husband of 30 years. Her new book is Five Star Career: Define and Build Yours Using the Science of Quality Management. Learn more at penelopeprzekop.com and www.pdcstrategy.com.

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