The Secret to Sound Decision-Making (Hint: It's Not a Process)

Last Updated May 13, 2010 11:00 AM EDT

Do you want to make better decisions? If so, you may need an attitude adjustment,suggests ongoing research by Brigham Young professor Kent Crookston. Crookston was determined to create just three "ways of being" to help you shift your perspective when approaching tough choices. I recently spoke with him about the will to change, the disastrous effects of deciding while manic, and choosing to listen. BNET: Why was the number three so important to you?

Crookston: Tell people more than three things and they forget them all. But even more important was my decision to focus on mindset, not process. Most of the literature on decision-making addresses the latter. I've found that if you have the right attitude, or "way of being," it doesn't matter what procedural steps you take. People usually think of decisions as "which option should I select?" Not very often do we think of deciding how to "be."

BNET: What are the three attitudes that lead to better decision-making?

Crookston: Being proactive, humble, and composed. I just changed that last one from "be not angry or afraid." I realized that bad decisions are created by emotions in addition to anger and fear. Euphoria or mania, not in a clinical sense, can also lead to horrible decisions. Look at what happens when traders get pumped up by a rising stock market. And yet, you can't say "don't be emotional." Good decisions don't result from indifference.

BNET: How can a manager be proactive when it comes to decision-making?

Crookston: Deciding to proactively listen is perhaps most important. Good listening doesn't come naturally to us. But unless we decide to become good at it, we'll remain reactive and mostly pretend to listen while we're formulating our own response or better-than-theirs comment. Then, the decisions we make will too often be flawed because we haven't considered different perspectives.

BNET: Is that where humility comes in?

Crookston: I think Jim Collins provides the best proof of the value of humility in his Harvard Business Review article, Level 5 Leadership: The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve. His research found that the CEOs of the most successful Fortune 500 companies were humble, meaning that their decisions were made in attempt to do what was best for the company, not themselves.