If the decisions we make on the job define our work lives, some of us are simply not doing a very good job.
That may sound a bit glib, but the truth is each of us is called upon to make lots of judgment calls in our daily work and most of us do little reflection on how those decisions affect others or our ability to get things accomplished. Often, it’s as though we feel so much pressure to make a decision that the ordeal of making it leaves us feeling that we have done the right thing.
That’s where Timothy Dobbins begs to differ.
Dobbins, an executive coach, conflict negotiator and author of the book, Stepping Up: Making Decisions That Matter (Collins), contends that by looking at the way we make decisions determines how effective and successful we will be in our jobs. Unfortunately, many of us are taking the wrong approach to decision making.
Dobbins says there are five major ways we make decisions:
Standing still. You have seen this way too often. You do nothing, make no decision at all and your work suffers because of that. The work of those who surround you—whether they are co-workers or subordinates—suffers because of your inaction. Nothing is accomplished by this.
Stepping aside. Again, you have probably seen one of your co-workers moonlight as a matador. These are the people who know a decision must be made and wait for someone else to make that decision. They simply avoid stepping up to the challenge of making a decision, figuring it will be made by someone else, somewhere, at some time. This is not a recommended course of action.
Stepping back. Another exercise in avoidance. Retreating from a situation you know needs to be addressed is nearly as bad as making the wrong decision. This is an attitude that causes a chain reaction: Because you can’t make a decision, the problem lingers and no one is able to move forward. You are using the power you hold in a company counterproductively when you do this.
Stepping on. It is simply anti-social behavior to trample someone else for your advantage. It could be for revenge for their having done this to you, but that doesn’t make it right. Or it could simply stem from your personal insecurity and your need to find a way to beat others in some kind of competition, either real or imagined.
Stepping up. Simply put, this is doing the right thing. No magic about it—just making decisions that take the situation and the people the decisions will affect into consideration is enough. These decisions lead to other decisions and provide the building blocks of a healthy community.
Everyone wants to make a difference with his or her life. But they cannot do this if they do not have the courage to make decisions that are based on honesty and integrity and that are respectful of others. This is not rocket science. It isn’t about making decisions that will affect thousands or millions of people. It’s about making decisions that are responsible.
Don’t underestimate the importance of making little decisions in your daily life. Dobbins says those are the kind of things that add up to a fulfilling, responsible and courageous life. In your job today, you’ll have the chance to make dozens of decisions. Dobbins calls on everyone to step up and make the decision that is right. After that, the next decision will be easier.