11 Steps To Become More Decisive at Work (With Tips)

Updated June 24, 2022

Every aspect of life includes making decisions, from what to eat or wear to how to approach professional relationships and career choices. Being conscientious about your own decision-making methods can help you make these decisions more strategically and quickly and connect your choices to your priorities. Good decision-making skills can help you reach your goals and earn the respect of those with whom you work. In this article, we discuss how to be more decisive at work in 11 steps.

Why is it important to be decisive at work?

It's important to be decisive at work to demonstrate professionalism and leadership qualities. Most occupations involve making frequent decisions, from how much attention to devote to each task to managing other personnel and prioritizing clients. When you can make good decisions, your coworkers and supervisors can trust you to work independently and be reliable in high-pressure situations. By streamlining and practicing your decision-making process, you can make your department more efficient, and may be able to devote more time to other parts of your job that you enjoy.

Related: Decision-Making Skills: Definition and Examples

How to be more decisive at work

Here are 11 steps to practice making decisions and apply those skills at work:

1. Think about why you're hesitant

First, understand why you're reluctant to make decisions, then develop strategies to overcome that reluctance. For example, if your role involves important decisions and you feel inexperienced, you might learn how others made similar decisions. If you're hesitating because of negative consequences after an earlier decision, work to process that event and recognize that each decision is a new opportunity to succeed.

Related: 8 Steps To Overcome Failure (With Resilience-Building Tips)

2. Be open to change

If you're developing a new strategy or pattern for being decisive, it's important to be open to new ways of doing things. As your decisiveness improves, you may find yourself in new situations or embracing greater responsibilities. Being open to new results and consequences can help you more easily adjust to making more decisions and seeing your surroundings change.

3. Make specific goals

Think about why you want to gain decision-making skills, then make goals to measure your own progress and success. It may be as simple as aiming to take less time deciding on your lunch order at the deli. If you're taking on a new role at work, think about specific things that you aim to do after a week, a month or a quarter. If you're looking to take greater control of a current situation, envision what success would be and make incremental goals to get there.

From these goals, you might create a written strategy or plan, including how you will counteract any hesitance or fear and how your decision-making skills can help you improve in other areas of life. Having a developed strategy can help you see your own progress.

Read more: How To Set and Achieve Career Goals (Plus 10 Examples)

4. Find a decision-making model

A role model can make it much easier to learn a new skill, so you may choose someone to emulate. You can consider coworkers or professional mentors who have found career success, a leader in your industry or an innovator in the modern workforce. Think about what this person prioritizes and what knowledge might help them feel prepared when they make judgment calls. If it's someone you know, you might arrange a meeting to learn their perspective and advice.

5. Prepare yourself

When you know a decision is coming, it's possible to prepare in advance by researching your options. Knowledge about the possibilities can increase your security in case the situation changes or the deadline comes sooner than you expected. Thinking about significant decisions in advance may also give you the time to seek perspectives from others, which is especially important if you're making decisions that impact their work, environment or options.

6. Practice evaluating options

To develop your ability to decide, it may be useful to practice thinking about decisions strategically. Start with one decision that has no deadline and try making a mental or paper list of the advantages and disadvantages of each option. As you strengthen this skill, you may find that you can understand the pros and cons more quickly.

7. Spend less time on small decisions

Before investing significant time into a decision, consider how important it is. For small decisions, try choosing an option quickly rather than mulling it over, since the stakes may be lower. Spending longer on large decisions like job or life choices can be beneficial, but the consequences for a menu choice are usually less severe than decisions about what job to take or which career to pursue.

8. Evaluate the results of decisions

After you make a decision, evaluate whether it was the right one. You can consider personal consequences, business and team consequences and later opportunities that your choice provided. Think about how you approached the decision, and if you feel you made an incorrect choice, make a plan for what you're going to do differently the next time.

9. Be optimistic afterward

Being optimistic can be a good way to reward yourself for making decisions and accepting the results. To apply your optimism practically, consider each possible outcome, then think of one positive result. Even a negative outcome may be useful to you since it gives you feedback to make better decisions in the future.

Read more: How To Be Optimistic (Plus Benefits of Optimism)

10. Forgive yourself

As you work toward your goals, recognize that progress involves setbacks, and forgive yourself for decisions you've made in the past. Make sure to take accountability if these decisions impact others. After you analyze what worked and what didn't, put your earlier decisions behind you and move on to your next goals.

11. Accept the limits of your control and knowledge

As you learn to make decisions, recognize that you may never have all the information you need to make a perfect decision. Being proactive about decisions in the workplace can be beneficial, but you're still working with your clients, coworkers and other company departments. Others' choices and external factors may influence or counteract the effects of your choices. Learning to make decisions is a process rather than a single choice, so it's important to put your choices into context and continue working to make better ones.

Tips for being decisive

Here are some tips for being decisive in the workplace:

  • Remain considerate: Remember to consider others as you make choices, and work to increase the options and autonomy of your coworkers in your daily work.

  • Augment your decisiveness: Making good choices is one of the best ways to become a respected leader in your workplace. Learning other leadership skills can help you put your decision-making skills to broader use.

  • Evaluate advice: As you look for role models and talk to others about your professional decisions, make sure to think about their motivations and experiences before taking their advice.

  • Record your choices: If your job has certain seasonal or annual routines, it may be helpful to make notes about your decision-making processes and the results, so you can build on earlier years' and seasons' mistakes and successes rather than starting from the beginning each time.

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