TIP of the Week – How Good is your Decision Making?


Look at the picture above; you are driving the green car, happily trundling along on your way to the office one morning. The ‘person’ in the blue car has driven up behind you at great speed and your wing mirror is now full of this car, only millimetres from your rear end. They seem to be pushing you, harassing you and almost bullying you to GET OUT OF THE WAY!

How are you feeling at this precise moment with this ‘person’ on your tail?

There is a very well known and consistent human response to these feelings. The brain receives a message of “DANGER – LOOK OUT – DO SOMETHING” and immediately begins to engage and process the ‘Reptilian’ part of our brain. As many of you will know it leads to the ‘FIGHT-FLIGHT or FREEZE’ response. For many people the brain engages in ‘FIGHT’ mode. They might race the other driver, stand on the brakes, slow right down and then speed up again, weave across the road, gesticulate wildly or all of the above. At that moment,  how good would you say your decision making skills are?

The outcome of your decision could be disastrous. You have ‘decided’ by your actions to put yourself and other road users at mortal risk.

Let’s change the input to your brain slightly.

The person in the blue car is desperate to get to a hospital where their critically ill daughter is in a life threatening condition.

Knowing that, wouldn’t you calmly and safely move out of the way? Now let’s apply that thinking to the workplace. When might you feel angry, frightened or threatened?

  • A customer complaint, especially if it is very critical or vociferous
  • The boss giving you negative, or less than positive feedback
  • A training session you don’t want to attend
  • A disagreement with a team member

In the example of the blue car your decision making changed because:

  • The reality has changed.
  • You are less inclined to be impulsive.
  • You are able to be empathetic to the other driver.
  • You are not feeling as stressed.
  • You are willing to be flexible

If you are a business leader you need to make consistent and rational decisions even when you are confronted with difficult and stressful situations. Your ability to make good decisions impacts on your performance, your team’s performance and ultimately the performance of the business.

The secret of success lies in 3 steps:

1 – Remove any unhelpful emotions, don’t do anything until you are calm and in control. Do whatever it takes to change your mindset. Examples include taking a deep breath, counting to 10, removing yourself temporarily from the situation, finding something that amuses you, thinking positive thoughts, using positive affirmations, considering what the worst consequences are if you stay angry or upset, like losing your job. In the car scenario it could be fatal…

2 – Challenge your assumptions, in other words what is really happening here? What is causing you to think this way or the person to behave that way? Do your level best to understand the other point of view and the real facts of the matter. Ask yourself: “Is there another way of seeing this which I am unaware of?” “Is my interpretation real?”

3 – Work through the options available to you which will address the things you found out in 2 above. This may include talking it through with those involved in a calm way, possibly with a mediator if necessary. Coaching, emotional intelligence and/or anger management may all be solutions. If you are indeed in the right, give the other party time to adjust and help them through it. If you are wrong, own up to it!

This post has only scratched the surface of some very complex but hugely important subjects of Emotional Intelligence, Ego States and Transactional Analysis.

At TIPS we have access to experts in these subjects who can help you and your organisation become excellent decision makers every day and therefore highly successful.