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Sharpen Your Decision Making Skills in 2 Steps

Last week, I examined the emotional intelligence (EQ) component of Interpersonal Relationships, and how leaders should utilize skills like empathy and active listening to deepen and strengthen key personal and professional relationships, and how this work will have a direct, positive impact on communication, trust, morale (in team settings), and performance.

This week, our focus shifts to next element of EQ: Decision Making.

Wait… emotional intelligence impacts our decision making abilities?

Absolutely. In the EQ-I Assessment, the three main skills in the Decision Making component are Problem Solving, Impulse Control, and Reality Testing.

Better decisions result in better outcomes.

Can you recall a time when you rushed into a decision, or bit off a bit more than you could chew? Yep, same here. And I'd be willing to bet that emotions played a role in that haste or overreach. Certainly true in my case. The result - a suboptimal outcome or a lot more work than planned. That's where these EQ skills come into play.

  • Problem solving is our ability to handle simple and complex issues and work through to a solution.

  • Impulse control is our ability to follow a framework or process instead of rushing to action when we find first possible answer. Remember, that first answer might not be the best one.

  • Reality Testing is just that. It asks us whether our solution is realistic, and whether we have the time and other resources to implement it. If not, then refinements are probably a good idea before leaping into action.

We don't leave our emotions at the door when we get to work, and we don't just leave work at the office when we get home. For many of us, the work/home lines have been blurred or eliminated, meaning it is more important than ever to be aware of these little traps and have the skills to navigate around them.

How can you improve your EQ for better decision making? A framework, of course! Here are two quick tips to help you start designing your new-and-improved decision making process.

1) Schedule a Pause. If you have thinking time or other mindfulness practices in your schedule, use that time to work on those challenging issues. Alternatively, you could instruct your team to brainstorm on the issue, and then regroup a a later time.

Impulsive decision making means we could be falling victim to our cognitive biases. Reflect on those past decisions you rushed into and ask yourself where you could have paused and taken a different path.

If needed, set up backstops to help you avoid impulsive actions. For example, any expenditure over a certain dollar amount requires a discussion or additional approval.

One benefit of the pause is that you to identify which resources will have the most impact - the most bang for your buck. High impact leaders maximize their resources.

A related benefit of this focused pause and critical thinking is improved organization and time management. However you create your "pause" there is probably going to be an element of setting and evaluating priorities as well. How does this new issue fit in overall? What skills are needed to handle it? What resources are available?

2) Leverage Your Network. A particularly novel issue, or one that arouses an emotional response, might be a good opportunity to consult your network. This is especially true if you find it hard to remain objective.

In any case, your network offers additional, trusted perspectives. Your network will help identify blind spots or other potential missteps in your logic. They may also have beneficial insights and access to resources.

Combined, these two simple steps help you guard against hasty, short-sighted decision making, and help you test out various possible actions. The result... BETTER PROBLEM SOLVING & DECISION MAKING. Your EQ is on the rise already.

Hopefully by now you can see the common themes between emotional intelligence and high-impact leadership.

  • Focus brings perspective when we intentionally slow down and think critically about an issue.

  • Perspective brings clarity about our range of options, our resources, and other vital elements.

  • Trust the process you've created, but refine it as new learning occurs.

  • A high quality network is a tremendous asset for continuous improvement.

Leadership and emotional intelligence are about having a clear picture of your values and goals, and having a reliable method for creating the most effective and efficient means of reaching those goals.

Next week, we’ll finish off the EQ circle by looking at how the lessons to date help us better manage stress, and examine how focusing on developing your overall EQ will create a virtuous cycle of continuous improvement for better personal and professional success.

About the Author:

Matt Beckmann is the Founder & Managing Director of Ascent Consultants. In addition to experience as a former Chief of Staff to the Missouri Auditor and as a Corporate Vice President and General Counsel, he has advanced training and certifications in law, business, coaching, athletics, and other disciplines. His blog content, inspired by his deep passion for unlocking his reader's best potential, consistently equips business owners and individuals with the knowledge and resources to overcome obstacles that may be hindering growth.

Ascent Consultants provides business and project management consulting, as well as executive and leadership coaching. By converting client growth goals into an actionable "game plan," we lead companies and individuals to extraordinary outcomes.

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