By Kevin Eikenberry, co-founder of the Remote Leadership Institute.

Decisiveness is a critical skill for all leaders, but it’s often more important for leaders of virtual or hybrid teams. Dispersed employees in varying time zones can make it hard to convene, debate the pros and cons of an idea or plan, and come to consensus. In many cases, you will need to make decisions, without the benefit of everyone’s input.

Some decisions will be easy; others not so much. It’s the hard decisions that we are  more likely to avoid or put off, and that almost always does more harm than good.

The following advice will help you with the difficult decisions that can have a big impact on your team, not the ones that in the grand scheme of things don’t really matter. If you apply them, you will make even your most challenging decisions more quickly, with greater confidence, and more accurately. All of those things lead to greater productivity and success!

Making effective decisions starts with knowing where you are going. You must have:

  • Clear goals. The starting point for making decisions that lead to higher productivity is a clear goal. For example, if the decision involves problem solving, do you know what the problem really is? If not it will be harder to make an accurate, confident decision. If you are clear on your short- and long term goals, and consider them in your thinking, you will make better decisions.
  • A clear why. Goals are great, and targets are important. Even more important is understanding why a goal is important. That reason will drive you in the right direction, even when you aren’t sure the goal is on target. Consider your why as your true north. When you know the why behind a goal, you will be more comfortable making decisions that affect it.

Once you’re clear on where you’re going, take these three steps to make decisions more effectively:

Gain a clear risk perspective

When considering a course of action, compare it to your why. Will that course of action move you further and perhaps faster to your goals? If so, proceeding is a no-brainer.

Also consider the risk. Risk is about what could go wrong, and we are often immobilized by the fear of a mistake or failure. Ask yourself: “What is the worst thing that could happen if I take that course of action?” If you can live with that, get on with it! If you can’t, consider the chance of it actually happening and, more important, how you can reduce that risk. If the benefits outweigh the risks, you can move forward with confidence.

Ask the right questions

When thinking about risk, I suggested asking yourself a question. Here are some others to consider along with, and beyond, risk:

  • What is most important to me/us now?
  • What is the best outcome that could happen?
  • What do the facts say?
  • What does my intuition say?
  • What is it costing to wait or delay this decision (or can I afford to delay it)?
  • How will I/we benefit if I make a decision?

Align with your reasons

This refers back to the beginning and your targets (goals) and your true north (whys). When making decisions, ensure alignment by:

  • Remembering your goals and whys.
  • Reminding yourself of your goals and whys.
  • Reviewing your goals and whys (regularly).
  • Refreshing your goals and keeping them connected to your whys.

And then, once you have this all in place, make your decision!

For bigger decisions, this analysis or thought process might take quite a few minutes, or longer. However, once you train yourself, practice these approaches, and make them a habit, you will find you are able to make better, more accurate and more productive decisions. The result? You don’t just have the ability to make decisions, you are truly decisive.

Now that you know how to make a decision, learn how to communicate them to your team.

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