Decision Making Myths and Tips

In both work and life in general, there is often no “right” decision. We’re often faced with an abundance of options, which doesn’t make the act of decision making any easier. Whether you’re someone who experiences decision paralysis, someone who makes rash decisions you come to regret, or fall anywhere in between, you will likely benefit from simplifying decision making with a balanced combination of intuition and critical thinking.

Types of Decision Making

Decisions should, ideally, come from a clear understanding of your needs, values and goals. When you’re in a familiar situation, do you find your decisions are fast and automatic? This is likely based on your established experience with what works and what doesn’t. However, when you encounter a new situation, you may find you need more time to weigh potential benefits and risks. Knowing various approaches to decision making can help you determine what’s best for your unique circumstances.

Informed Decision Making

The ability to think critically is key to making good decisions free from common errors or bias. Informed decision making means not just listening to your intuition or “going with your gut,” but rather figuring out what knowledge you lack and obtaining it. When you look at all possible sources of information with an open mind, you can make an informed decision based on both facts and intuition.

Satisficing vs. Maximizing Decision Making

A satisficing approach to making decisions involves settling for a “good enough” outcome, even if it’s flawed. Alternatively, a maximizing approach waits for conditions to be as perfect as possible to minimize potential risks. People who make good decisions know when it’s important to act immediately, and when there’s time to wait and gather more facts before making a choice.

Decision-Making Styles

If you find you’re feeling stuck when faced with the need to make a decision, consider the decision-making styles below. Examine these factors and think about how they relate to your potential decision.

StyleBehaviorWhen to useDo not use when
AuthoritativeYou make a decision and announce it to relevant parties.Time is short.

As decision maker, you have all the knowledge needed.
You need buy-in from others.
Consultative (group or individual)You gather input from individuals or a group, and then decide.As decision maker, you do not have all the knowledge or insight needed.

The issue is important to a group/team.
Others really don’t have a say in the decision (as decision maker, you may have privileged information).
MajorityYou reach a decision along with a group; everyone understands the decision, and the majority of people are willing to implement.It is a relatively trivial matter or low-stakes decision.The decision affects everyone in a meaningful way.
ConsensusYou reach a decision along with a group; everyone understands the decision, and everyone is willing to implement.The decision will impact everyone, and all need to fully buy in.

There is potential value in the team discussing or working together on the decision.
Time is short.
DelegateYou delegate the decision to an individual or a team, with constraints you have set.The delegate has all the necessary skills, or there is a coach or mentor available to assist.It is a high-risk or high-profile decision.

Decision Making Myths

Making decisions can be stressful, and it’s easy to fall into falsehoods about decision making to avoid putting in the sometimes difficult effort to make the best choice. Consider some common myths related to decision making and think of ways to avoid these traps.

Myth #1: I just need to solve this problem at this moment; I don’t have time to dedicate to this decision.

Putting off a decision is a decision in and of itself. However, intentionally slowing down a bit to be clear about what you’re solving will speed up your efficacy. Put in the quality time now to avoid having to revisit a decision later that you may come to regret. Our problems sit in a context. If your focus is too narrow, or your process is too rushed, you may solve the wrong problem, or only partially solve the problem.

Myth #2: This is my decision alone; I don’t need to involve others.

Most important decisions involve other stakeholders. Avoiding this bigger picture of who else is affected by a decision can, at best, only partially solve the problem, and may unintentionally exacerbate it.  Be mindful that, when many people are involved in making a decision, the process can become stalled by groupthink, when well-intentioned individuals make poor or irrational choices out of a desire to conform or avoid dissent. Ensure any involved individuals feel safe and confident expressing doubts and concerns.

Myth #3: Decision making is a linear process.

Good decision making is circular, requiring a feedback loop as information is gathered and analyzed over time. Don’t be surprised if you need to go back to find additional information or adjust your decisions.

When faced with difficult decisions, take the time to ensure your choices are based on what’s actually happening and not simply reflective of learned patterns of behavior that may no longer be useful. Carefully weigh any potential issues, commit to a decision, and then follow through. Interested in further advancing your decision-making skills and knowledge? Check out the elevateU resources below to get started.

ELEVATEU RESOURCES

Collected Resources: Decision Making and Problem Solving (Courses, Short Videos, Audiobooks, eBooks)

Choosing and Using the Best Solution (25-minute course)

Defining Alternative Solutions to a Problem (24-minute course)

Leading Through Problem Solving and Decision Making (48-minute course)

Sources

Psychology Today. Decision-Making. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/decision-making.

Skillsoft Ireland Limited. Choosing and Using the Best Solution. Retrieved May 9, 2022, from https://elevateu.skillport.com/skillportfe/main.action?path=summary/COURSES/apd_15_a03_bs_enus.

Strauss Einhorn, Cheryl, 2021, April 20. 11 Myths About Decision-Making. Harvard Business Review blog post. Retrieved April 28, 2022, from https://hbr.org/2021/04/11-myths-about-decision-making.

Time Management Blog Series: Pomodoro Technique

Are you juggling multiple, competing priorities? Do you feel like you’re busy all the time but are still not getting things done? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Time management is an area where most of us could use additional practice and skills.

Over a series of posts, we’ll highlight various time management techniques to give you different tools to utilize depending on your needs, preferences and work style. The reality is that the best time management technique is the one you’ll actually use and stick with, so give different approaches a try and see what works best for you.

We’ll focus here on leveling up your time management skills with the Pomodoro Technique.

Pomodoro Technique: What It Is

As bizarre as it may seem to think of time management in units of tomatoes (Pomodoro is Italian for tomato), millions of people swear by the Pomodoro Technique. This popular time management method has you alternate pomodoros — focused, 25-minute work sessions — with frequent, short breaks to promote sustained concentration and reduce fatigue and burnout.

Developed in the late 1980s by overwhelmed Italian university student Francesco Cirillo, Cirillo asked himself to commit to just 10 minutes of focused study time. Encouraged by the challenge, he found a tomato/pomodoro shaped kitchen timer, and the Pomodoro technique was born.

How It Works

1 pomodoro = 25-minute focused work session + 5-minute break

  1. Pick one project or task you want to focus on.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes and focus on that single task until the timer goes off.
  3. Mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed. Use whatever medium you prefer — perhaps an Excel spreadsheet, a physical notebook or an online project management tool.
  4. Take a five-minute break.
  5. Go back to Step 1 and repeat the process until you’ve completed 4 pomodoros.
  6. Then, take a longer, more restorative break in the 15–30-minute range.

Who Will It Benefit?

While the Pomodoro Technique can work well for just about anyone, it may be an especially good fit if you meet any of these criteria:

  • Distractions often derail your workday.
  • You tend to work past the point of optimal productivity.
  • You are faced with open-ended work that could take unlimited amounts of time.
  • You enjoy gamified goal setting.
  • You frequently overestimate how much you can get done in a day.

Additional Considerations

The core of the Pomodoro Technique focuses on the alternating “sprints” of productive time and rest periods. Applying the following three rules will help you get the most out of each interval.

  1. Break down complex projects. If you’ll need more than four pomodoros to complete a project, the project needs to be divided into smaller, actionable steps. This will help ensure you make clear progress on your projects.
  2. Group small tasks. Tasks that will take less than one Pomodoro should be combined with other quick tasks within one session.
  3. Do not break up a pomodoro once it begins. Once your pomodoro timer starts, be mindful to not check incoming emails, team chats or text messages. Simply note any ideas, tasks or requests that may come up as something to come back to later. Focus solely on the task set aside for the pomodoro.

What if You’re Interrupted?

Some disruptions just can’t be avoided. If this occurs during your pomodoro, address the urgent matter at hand, then take your five-minute break and start again. Cirillo recommends tracking interruptions as they occur and reflecting on how to avoid them in your next session.

What if Your Task Doesn’t Require a Full Pomodoro?

Planning ahead with Step 2 above — grouping small tasks — will help avoid this, but sometimes you’ll finish your given task before your timer goes off. Use the duration of your pomodoro for related learning, skill improvement or increasing your knowledge around the topic.

Tip

You don’t always need to complete four Pomodoro sessions back to back. Even just one or two Pomodoro sessions a day can set the tone to help you feel more focused and productive.

Below are additional resources that may help you establish a time management approach that works for you. Keep an eye out for additional posts in the Time Management Blog Series that dive into the Eisenhower Matrix, Eat the Frog(!) and more. Do you have other time management tips? Share in the comments section — your ideas may be just the thing another person needs to succeed with time management.

Additional Resources

Determining Your Time Management Style (6-minute elevateU video)

Managing Your Time So It Doesn’t Manage You (19-minute elevateU course)

The Power of Habit (HR Organization and Professional Development Instructor-Led Course)

Sources

Collins, Bryan (2020, March 3). The Pomodoro Technique Explained. Retrieved March 20, 2022 from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bryancollinseurope/2020/03/03/the-pomodoro-technique/?sh=41f602ca3985

Scroggs, Laura. The Pomodoro Technique. Retrieved March 18, 2022 from https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique.

Leadership Blog Series: Unmasking and Addressing Unprofessional Behavior

Written by Sharri Margraves, HR Associate Director for Organization and Professional Development

Unprofessionalism often masquerades as interpersonal conflict. Left unchecked, this disruptive behavior can destroy relationships, create a toxic environment, reduce productivity and increase errors. On a personal level, unprofessionalism can be career-limiting for the individual and demoralizing to the whole team if not handled well or left unresolved.

As a leader, when you have a challenge with an individual regarding unprofessional behavior, you must address it. The behavior you tolerate becomes the culture. Many times, the person is unaware of the effect of their behavior, and the issue can be resolved with a conversation. Often, though, the thought of confronting the person can induce fear. It can be hard to summon the courage to take the first step, and we often excuse the behavior or hope it will go away on its own — even when we know it likely will not.

People are counting on you. If you don’t address unprofessional behavior, you simply promote more of it. So, take a deep breath and lean into it. Use the following ideas to successfully navigate these conversations.

  • Envision success. Think about the benefits of resolving the issue.
  • Check your conflict style using the Conflict Management Styles Quiz.
  • Choose the right time.
  • Be calm. Keep your voice even.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Write them down. Practice what you want to say.
  • Stick to the facts.
  • State your intended outcomes.
  • Be compassionate. What might be happening you don’t know about?

It can also be helpful to analyze the patterns of unprofessional behavior to determine your response. Consider the following scenarios.

Was it a single incidence?

Have an informal conversation as close to the situation as possible, in private. Ask open-ended questions and invite the individual to offer their version. Acknowledge it as an isolated incident and that you trust they are aware that unprofessionalism is detrimental to the team and their own career.

Is this a pattern?

Use data to help illustrate to the person what is happening. Your goal is to raise awareness and invite them to help solve the problem based on facts. State the pattern. When does the behavior arise? Are there discernible triggers? All of these can invite the employee to be reflective and cognizant of the issue. State the impact on the team, colleagues and you as the leader. Ask the employee for their solutions. Follow-up with a letter acknowledging the conversation. This is not a disciplinary process or even a hint of further action — it is simply a way to capture what you talked about and the agreements going forward.

Does the behavior continue to persist?

Despite our best efforts, additional support and intervention are sometimes necessary. At this stage, you will be documenting the conversations and likely engaging with your dean, HR professional or Employee Relations for further guidance. Remember, the goal is to correct the behavior so that your organization can create an environment to achieve great things and not be distracted by the few.

It’s important to remember that if the individual also intimidates others by shouting, being disruptive, blocking their path, or touching another person, this heightens the seriousness of corrective action and must be dealt with immediately.

Channeling the positive energy of conflict that focuses on problem-solving can foster innovation, creativity and greater engagement. Utilize the ideas above to help build a culture of trust where issues can be raised and resolved and in which all members of a team are valuable to achieving success.

Sources

Adkins, R., 2006.  Elemental Truths blogspot. https://facultyombuds.ncsu.edu/files/2015/11/Conflict-management-styles-quiz.pdf

Hickson, Gerald, B., Pichert, James, W., Webb, L. E., Gabbe, S. (2007). A complementary approach to promoting professionalism: Identifying, measuring, and addressing unprofessional behaviors. Academic Medicine. November 2007. Volume 82. Issue 11. Ppg 1040-1048. https://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/FullText/2007/11000/A_Complementary_Approach_to_Promoting.7.aspx

Tremper, K. K., How to manage disruptive colleagues. RCL Papers. Department of Anesthesiology,   University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. http://iars.org/wp-content/uploads/15_RCL_Papers_F.pdf#page=46