In seemingly every facet of our society, it feels as though we are pressured to make decisions. The pressure to decide can be even more relentless when it comes to our professional responsibilities.

It’s all too easy for leaders to get caught up in deadlines, but deadlines can create “false horizons” which unnecessarily accelerate a process or offer undue time for delay.

So, what is the right balance? How does a person know when a quick decision is warranted and when time for reflection and gathering of additional information would be the best course?

Prioritizing the Pace of Decisions

One tool leaders can use to determine the urgency of a decision is to ask, “Is anyone in danger of being harmed?” In this case, “harm” can mean lots of things. Someone can be at risk of being harmed financially if their paycheck didn’t come through, or be at risk for emotional harm if a co-worker has done or said something hurtful.

If the possibility of harm is present, leaders must act quickly.

One area when high pressure is often used to elicit quick decisions is in sales. Sales urgency is used to help eliminate time to thoroughly examine something. But for leaders, committing to something without a thorough examination can cause just as much harm as the product promises to alleviate.

Leaders must always step back and examine the situation from all angles to best assess why pressure is being applied. Is it being used to avoid, alleviate, or prevent harm? Or, is it simply a tactic? Find the root of pressure and you’ll be on your way to identifying its urgency.

The Benefits of Allowing Time for Decision-Making

Even more important than knowing when to make quick decisions and when to take time is creating an effective system for decision-making.

Creating processes that allow opportunities to gather relevant information quickly and thoroughly is a leadership trait that successful leaders develop with intention. They know that snap decisions, or “shooting from the hip” should only take place in extreme circumstances. While there is the rare occasion when one must act immediately, those times are very infrequent and even more rare than most leaders perceive.

Here are a few ways leaders can build systems that enable solid, quick decisions.

  • Create positive working relationships with teams, so you can rely on their input and feedback at any given time.
  • Facilitate trust and a sense of shared purpose to facilitate the gathering of input on decisions in a timely and reliable manner.
  • Invest in great systems and protocols for the process of gathering information, including data.
  • Build the capacity of team members to perform when the pressure is high, so you know that you don’t need to face challenging situations in isolation.

Using the algorithm and understanding the foundations of high-functioning teams will be of great assistance to the leader when they find themselves called upon to decide.