Enhancing Decision-Making Skills: 12 Tips For Overthinking Executives

Indecisiveness can be crippling for senior business leaders. For executives heading up critical projects or large departments, their decisions can have a big impact on the health of the company. With so much riding on the choices they make, the “analysis paralysis” phenomenon can overwhelm them.

If they begin to overthink and second-guess every move they make, it can make it difficult to commit to any course of action. To help, 12 leaders from Forbes Coaches Council share insights into how they help executive clients stop overthinking, boost their decision-making skills and make up their minds with confidence.

1. Identify What’s Holding You Back

Perfectionism, fear of getting it wrong, chronic what-ifs, insecurity, a toxic culture or boss and many other things can lead to analysis paralysis. Identifying what’s holding them back is the first step toward helping the executive. Once the root cause is exposed, I guide them through a process of challenging the assumptions and concerns that are causing their analysis paralysis. – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Measure Decisions Based On Risk

I suggest that clients measure decisions by the element of risk. Are they flying an airplane or selecting office supplies? When safety is at stake, it’s okay to be cautious, detailed and analytical. However, when choosing a pen, good enough is okay. By getting into the habit of measuring risk and making a practice out of taking a step forward with minor decisions, the client will become more comfortable. – Debbie Oberbillig, SuccessView Coaching and Consulting Group

3. Use A Decision-Making Model

My tip is to educate them in using a decision-making model. Deciding how to decide is the best way to head off overthinking and indecisiveness. Once they firm up an effective decision-making process, the actual deciding is much easier, and the outcomes are better. The book Winning Decisions by J. Edward Russo and Paul J. H. Schoemaker offers an excellent and easy-to-follow model. – Jessica Hartung, Treelight Productions

4. Read, Read And Read Some More

A leader who reads is agile and can redefine their goals and expectations because reading provides imagination. The brain can connect new neural pathways, and increased pathways lead to more options in your decision-making process. Plus, the overall benefits of reading are overwhelming, from increased memory to higher empathy, combating depressive symptoms and more. – Amera McCoy, McCoy Consulting LLC

5. Make A List Of Major Past Decisions

I work with executive coaching clients who struggle with anxiety, only they don’t realize they have it. It shows up in their lack of decision-making skills as paralysis by analysis. To change this, we do skill-building exercises by making a list of major past decisions. Together, we mine that list, looking for patterns in how they were made. We build confidence by creating a better process. – Roberta Moore, The EQ-i Coach

6. Think Of The Things You Did Right

Overthinking and analysis paralysis are issues I have often seen in my executive coaching practice. The cause often varies by individual, but often the executive lacks internal confidence that they will make the right decision. In these cases, I show them the history of all the things they have done right and what they learned from their “mistakes” to instill that inner confidence. – Ash Varma, Varma & Associates

7. Apply A Two-Column Framework

Reduce the “brain swirl” with a two-column framework: “What I Know” and “What I Don’t Know.” Use “What I Don’t Know” first as a way to create a short list of things to get clear on; then, “park” (and be okay with) anything that will remain ambiguous. Use “What I Know” as an anchor to increase confidence and focus on the most important data and facts that will drive the decision. – Bonnie Davis, HuWork – Inspiring Humans at Work

8. Create A Sense Of Urgency

I create a sense of urgency with the client by asking them, “What would happen if you found yourself in a hospital, 24 hours away from certain death tomorrow?” What would be your greatest regret in terms of work and your career? What would that version of yourself tell today’s version of yourself to do? If your son or daughter was living this experience in 30 years, what advice would you give them? – Natasha Ganem, Lion Leadership

9. Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

The real reason the client can’t make a decision is because they want to find the “right” or “best” answer. In the 21st century, knowing the one, right, “best” answer is as rare as a Bigfoot sighting! Instead, focus on coaching the client on becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable. How can I be agile and resilient when things go off course, as they inevitably will? That’s the transformation. – Lisa Christen, Christen Coaching & Consulting LLC

10. Break Projects Into Smaller Steps

Realize that the first step is always the most difficult. Focus on just this one step for now. When you complete that one, move on to the next; again, focus just on this one, next step, and so on. Practice. Practice makes perfect. – Agata Dulnik, Ph.D.

11. Base Decisions On Clarity Instead Of Certainty

Make your decisions based on clarity instead of certainty. The speed at which we need to make decisions is accelerating, and there will never be enough time for all of the data to be gathered before the decision needs to be made. If you are headed in a good direction, make decisions according to that direction. We can course-correct much more quickly and easily than we think. – Evan Roth, Roth Consultancy International, LLC.

12. Do A ‘Worst-Case Scenario’ Exercise

Write down the worst things that could happen in the situation and ask yourself if you really think they would. Once you’re free from the catastrophic fears, you won’t be as afraid to deal with reasonable concerns. Those, we can handle; in fact, anticipating them calmly makes your decisions better. – Kathy Morris, Under Advisement, Ltd.

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1. Combine Gifts, Passions And Innovation

Know who you are today by doing a fresh analysis of your gifts and passions. Use the results of your analysis as your lens for identifying unmet needs in the business world. Think outside the box by breaking away from conventional wisdom. Combining your gifts and passions with innovative ideas is foundational to a successful business that meets your and your consumers’ needs. – Ron Young, Trove, Inc.

2. Gain Clarity And Choose Metrics For Success

I’ve had numerous pro-service clients do this, and most of them have considered it. The most important thing is to have clarity about why you want to start a business. The second thing is to very carefully choose the metrics that will indicate to yourself that you are succeeding. Your “why” and your metrics will keep you grounded when the going gets tough—and it will. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

3. Leverage Your Experience And Do A SWOT Analysis

Know your strengths, be clear on your personal motivation and leverage your current experience and insights that you have developed over the years in your industry. Think about the pains and gains your clients have experienced and gaps that have not been filled. I also recommend doing a SWOT analysis to gain clarity and alignment and to determine the value proposition. – Breshana Miller, Kairos Coaching & Consulting, LLC

4. Brainstorm With Close Friends

You can’t hesitate or keep your new business too close to your chest. You need to brainstorm with your closest friends, your professional network and those whom you trust. Bounce your ideas off of others and see if they resonate. What do they think your new business is worth? Who do they think the customers would be? Do they know someone who would buy? Have that conversation 100 times and get to work. – Jacob Warwick, ThinkWarwick

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5. Match The Commercial Proposition With The Value You Offer

It is important to match the commercial proposition with the value that you are offering. Before leaving, start researching the potential market to ensure there is a real need. When you are clear on the commercial viability, you can reverse-engineer the process to ensure the proposition fits with your personal drive and passion. – Claudine Reid, PJ’s Community Service

6. Have A Strong Support System In Place

Being an entrepreneur and working for a corporation require different mindsets. To sustain the personal drive and passion, it helps to have a strong support system in place—people who are just as passionate and driven as you and believe in the success of the new business, such as friends, a mastermind group or an experienced coach who can ensure there is a balance between work and personal well-being. – Masha Malka, The One Minute Coach

7. Don’t Follow Your Passion—Bring It To An Opportunity

Don’t follow your passion. I’d rather you bring your passion and drive to an opportunity. The first step is finding a way to improve lives in exchange for profit, then apply your natural passion and drive to improve as many of those lives as possible as efficiently as possible. Because when you do that really well, vision, momentum, growth and, eventually, profit are the results. – David Robertson, Growthpoint Coaching Co.

8. Leverage What Makes You Irreplaceable

You need to clarify the market need for what you do via research, interviews and more. In regard to fulfilling your own needs, a reflective, holistic approach is required to uncover your own personal wants, needs and values to be successful. And above all else, you must uncover something that makes you irreplaceable in the market that you serve. Get all those right and then go for it! – Linda Martin, Linda Martin Results

9. Connect With Your Four Selves

First connect with your four selves—intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical—and be crystal clear about your purpose and commitment to it. Launching a new venture requires all your energy and commitment. Sometimes, it’s rough. Second, get deep input and feedback from those around you—both your trusted network and your more fearless critics. The wider the scope, the richer the insights. – Luis Costa, Luis Costa – coach · facilitator · speaker

10. Enroll Clients To Help Craft Your Company Vision

Get connected to your purpose, build a business plan around your core values and enroll the customers you want to serve to help craft the company vision. In doing this, you will likely find that your needs and the needs of your future customers are very aligned. Trust that a successful launch will follow and that you will have a tribe of allies ready to offer guidance and support when needed. – Emily Rogers, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching

11. Outline The Customer Journey And Your Sales Funnel

First, outline the customer journey to define the scope of their need. Second, outline your marketing and sales funnel. If you are not excited to do that, hire someone who is or don’t launch. If the idea of selling and marketing for hours every week does not excite you, pursue a hobby instead. Third, if you don’t have the drive or passion to build a business, get a dog. The dog will love you back every day. – Kelly Tyler Byrnes, Voyage Consulting Group

12. Experiment With A Minimum Viable Product

Take small steps. Too many people get sucked into the entrepreneurial dream without realizing how tough it can be. I would suggest experimenting with the product—take a minimum viable product (MVP) to the market and get feedback. Leaning on your personal drive, experiment with your own business identity. Too many people overestimate their passion and drive and underestimate the challenge. – Devika Das, CORE Executive Presence

13. Take An Inside-Out Approach

Start with your mission and vision. I believe, as a coach, taking an inside-out approach where executives can start exploring their passion as well as what they would see as success for this new endeavor is key. Then, we can explore the marketplace and how this would be sustained as a successful business by developing a strategic business plan. Allow your personal drive to set the tone for success. – Bryan Powell, Executive Coaching Space

14. Build A Business Around Your Retirement Dreams

Start by thinking about your retirement. If you grew your business and sold it for a killing, what would you then be doing in life? At that point, when you wouldn’t have to think about money and profits, what would you be doing with your time? That’s what you should build your business around. It’s bound to be an area where a strong customer or market need is coupled with your own passion and drive. – Vinesh Sukumaran, Vinesh Sukumaran Consulting

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