8 steps to improve your decision-making skills

A little clarity can help you reach the result that you want to achieve.

8 steps to improve your decision-making skills

Most decisions don't need to be made on the fly.

We make decisions every day at work. Some are small (“What will I have for lunch today?”) and some are big (“Should I ask for a raise?”). And, naturally, some people are better than others at making smart choices and achieving desirable outcomes. But with a little effort, you can improve your decision-making skills.

Taking these eight steps can help improve your ability to make better decisions throughout your career.

Review strong decision-making skills

Making good choices while under pressure requires a number of abilities, including:

Take your time

Patience more likely falls under character traits than it does decision-making skills, but it's a huge help. Most problems don’t require you to make a split-second decision. Sure, the occasional emergency pops up, but most work issues allow you time to gather information so that you can weigh your options effectively and make smart choices.

Also, by avoiding making impulsive or emotionally-charged decisions, you’ll be better equipped to use rational thinking when assessing a situation, which will help prevent you from making costly mistakes. So, if you’re feeling pressure from a co-worker to make a decision, don’t be afraid to say, “I need some time to take a step back and gather information before I give you an answer.”

Start with the desired outcome

Before you evaluate your options, figure out what a successful outcome looks like. Looking to address a data breach? Think about what level of security measures you’re looking to install. Need to resolve a conflict with a co-worker? Picture what kind of relationship you’re looking to build. Having that kind of goal clarity upfront will help you reach the result that you want to achieve.

Weigh the pros and cons

Running a cost-benefit analysis of each possible decision will enable you to make smart choices. One way to effectively envision the consequences of your actions is to put pen to paper and make a list of each action’s pros and cons that you can then use to narrow your options.

When possible, making a data-driven decision—such as by using customer-buying behaviors or quarterly earnings reports—is a smart approach. Data is your friend.

Get a second (or third) opinion if you need it

If you’re facing a decision to solve a problem that’s outside your area of expertise, it’s OK to ask for help. Whether it’s asking someone in HR to help you address an employee’s poor performance or asking a co-worker to help you figure out how to deal with a difficult client, finding support and advice can go a long way. Moreover, consider consulting people who’ve offered you helpful advice in the past.

Pro tip: If you’re making a group decision, make sure to solicit each team member’s opinion before making up your mind on how you’re going to proceed. One of your co-workers may have a distinct point of view that you haven’t taken into consideration yet.

Use past experience as a guideline

Think about whether you’ve faced a similar dilemma in the past (there’s a good chance you have), and analyze whether the decision you made achieved successful results. Learning from mistakes helps you make better choices in the future.

Measure the results

Remember how we said data is your friend? Once you’ve made a decision and acted on it, you must evaluate the outcome. Survey client satisfaction rates. Did lowering the price of a product increase sales? Which efforts of your fundraising campaign raised the most money? Use the results to inform future decisions.

Learn from your mistakes

Embracing failure is integral to growing as a professional while also improving your decision-making skills. One blunder doesn’t make you a bad employee. Developing a tough skin, especially if you’re working in a cutthroat industry, is a must. Everyone makes mistakes—learning from them is what matters.

Get help making good choices for your career

It's not easy to know what to do in every given situation you face, but knowledge is indeed power. Need help making important career choices, like determining how to ask for a raise, when to look for a new job, or how to hone your other professional skills? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you'll get career advice, job search tips, and job leads sent straight to your inbox to help you make informed choices—and put your decision-making skills to good use.