The Art of Decision Making

All our final decisions are made in a state
of mind that is not going to last.
                                               ~ Marcel Proust

IS DECISION MAKING an art or an acquired skill?

Is it a combination of both?

Or, are there other components that often render decision making such a challenging process?

When working with my clients, they often turn to me during tough times where their clarity, tools, and critical thinking to make the “right” decision is lacking. It is at these moments of coaching where I know that we are in the realm of emotions that are blurring the waters to making sound decisions. Let me share a story.

A CEO I work with was being faced with a challenging situation. He was angry about some circumstances that occurred and when the opposing party tried to make up for the error, he was not in the mind to accept the offer. During our coaching session, through my probing questions, he finally revealed to me that he holds grudges and can hold onto them for a very long time. Great insight and self-awareness, yet, his emotions and “go-to” style during adversity was getting in the way of making a good decision for the organization. More often than we are aware of, emotions impact decision-making and the art and skill required to manage those emotions to an optimal value can be developed. If not, they get in the way.

Questions to ask your-self are:

  • How well do you control your emotions?
  • Do your emotions get the best of you?
  • Do you maintain your composure under stressful situations and challenges?
  • Are you aware of your predominate “go-to” style during challenging times?

My client had taken the EQi – 2.0, emotional intelligence assessment and the results showed that he needed to strengthen the areas of emotional self-awareness and emotional expression. His tendency was to bottle up his emotions that resulted in a lack of awareness that his emotions were in the driver seat of critical decision-making. This was one of his blind spots. Through our work together, he was building up his emotional self-awareness. The assessment also revealed that he needed to increase his self-confidence and problem solving. I have found that when self-confidence is low there is a correlation to weakened problem solving as we are often not confident in the decisions we make. I have also experienced that our blind spots are often the culprit to making good decisions.

In the realm of decision-making, there are three competencies that come into play:

  1. impulse control – which is the ability to resist making a rash decision or action
  2. reality testing – which is the ability to remain objective and see the situation as it actually is rather than how you would like it to be
  3. problem solving – which is the ability to be aware of the emotions and arrive at the optimal decision

A major component of increasing emotional intelligence is maintaining control of one’s emotions. Emotional Self-Control is when we manage impulsive and/or distressing feelings – staying calm and in control. The lack of managing emotions is the number one derailer for leaders.  Lack of self-control:

  • is a common theme for leaders who have derailed
  • is a weakness and a contradiction for our need for a strong leader
  • shows up as emotionally reactive, volatile, and abrasive

Our story of the CEO earlier illuminates how his emotions derailed him as a leader for his organization. While not “acting out” on his upper management, (which many upper management individuals often do), he was still coming from a place of weakness and highly reactive. He was “acting out” and derailed by his “go-to” style of holding grudges and not thinking of the bigger picture and what was best for his organization.

When emotions are running the show that person is in an amygdala hijack, and you cannot reason with that person because they are in the emotional part of the brain. It is called a hijack because once the cortisol kicks in and the adrenaline is released, they are hijacked from accessing the logical, reasoning, thinking function part of the brain. This is what happened to my CEO. He was hijacked from being in control of his emotions.

Running an organization presents challenges and can be stressful. When under stress or pressure, how do you stay calm and in control of your emotions? What is your “go-to” style? Instead of remaining calm and in control, do you become:

  • emotional or opinionated
  • shut down
  • hostile or sarcastic
  • make impulsive decisions
  • defensive
  • overly controlling

Knowing what posturing you take is the beginning to mastering your emotions during adversity and challenges. As a leader, understanding your emotions and gaining control of them before they derail you puts you back into a rational state to evaluate the situation and choose the best option for your organization. We have to get out of our own way to see the full picture, which means, maintaining control of our emotions. When we can achieve that we are a step closer to mastering the art of decision-making. Through our coaching session, my client regained control over his emotions and was then able to be rational about the best decision for his company. The over-arching goal with my clients is to unlock their full potential and take them from being great leaders to exemplary leaders.

I welcome your comments and if you gained value from the article, please like and share. For more information about emotional intelligence and how it can enhance your decision-making, please contact me at: 


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