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  • Liz Cruz

Decision Making in Leadership: What Skills You Need In The Workplace + 3 Ways To Improve Them

Up your confidence in making choices at work


When it’s time for you to make a decision, do you feel:

  • Anxious thinking you don’t have enough information?

  • Overwhelmed because you have too much information?

  • Pressured because you have to decide quickly?

I’ve been there– too many times, TBH.


And that’s why I want to share this post with you. Because decision making is a critical skill for your leadership.


You make leadership choices every day. From the minute you log onto your computer, to the afternoon meeting with your colleagues, to the evening when you say that one more thing on your to-do list can be for ‘tomorrow-you’ to tackle.


Imagine what it would be like to feel more confident in your decision-making skills.


Would you:

  • Wake up feeling more excited about going to work?

  • Feel inspired to try something new with your team?

  • Be encouraged to show your colleagues how they could become more confident like you?

Yeah, I want that for you, too.


So in this post, I’ll walk you through three decision making skills in leadership and three activities you can do to feel more confident in making choices. Then I’ll share a way you can stay in touch with me and get even more confident in your queer leadership skills.


Come see the skills that can help you change the way you approach decision making.

The graphic of the Decision Making composite area of the EQ-i 2.0 along with the three related skills. It says Decision Making Composite, Problem Solving, Reality Testing, and Impulse Control.
The graphic of the Decision Making composite area of the EQ-i 2.0 along with the three related skills: Problem Solving, Reality Testing, and Impulse Control.


What are the three decision making skills in leadership?


1. Problem Solving


The first essential skill for decision making is problem solving. And I’m not talking about cognitive problem solving, which is like…being good at making analytical decisions. I’ll explain more next.


This skill goes back to the overall concept of emotional intelligence (EQ). It involves our ability to use emotional information to make sense of the world.


Here’s what I want to know:


When you’re facing a problem with emotions involved, are you the type of person to tackle a problem head-on? Or does just the thought of conflict make you wanna run in the other direction? (Looking at you, people pleasers, Enneagram 9’s, trauma survivors, and Highly-Sensitive People!)


Wherever you are in your problem solving abilities, I’m here for you– there’s room for all of us to grow more confident in this skill.


The EQ-i 2.0 says problem solving is all about finding solutions to problems when emotions are involved. It also involves understanding how emotions impact decision making. [1]


Think about when you’re solving problems and making choices at work. Do you consider yourself:

  • Conscientious?

  • Disciplined?

  • Methodical?

Whatever your approach to problem solving is, I encourage you to do your best to confront the problems you’re facing rather than avoid them.


As queer leaders, we’re already well-equipped problem-solvers. Why? Because we are open-minded. We’re adaptable. And we lean into evolving over time instead of staying rigid in our identities. This Forbes article by Jenn Lofgren highlights that problem solving can actually get easier when you have an open mind. [2]


Got a challenging problem on your plate right now? That’s a good thing actually– because I’m about to show you how you can start to work through it.

  • Activity #1 - Try this thought exercise

​Think of a problem you’re currently facing that involves emotions

Take stock of what you think & believe about the problem, other people involved, and yourself. What stories have you created around this issue?

What emotions are you experiencing about this problem?

What are your emotions guiding you to pay attention to? How else might you look at the problem?

Leaders also have different ways of viewing situations– which brings us to the next skill.



2. Reality Testing


The second skill that’s an essential part of decision making in leadership is reality testing.


Reality testing is about being able to “tune in” to the situation in front of you. It’s about seeing things objectively, instead of how you wish or fear them to be. It requires you to look for evidence to support what you’re experiencing. [1]


So I want you to think of a time you misjudged a situation.

Did you let positivity get in the way of seeing things as they really were?

Or did you let negativity cloud your ability to try something new?


What was the impact? What did you learn about yourself in the situation?


Your ability to engage in this part of decision making can depend on whether you see yourself as a realist, a pessimist, or an idealist. This article by Windon and Stollar from PennState Extension shows that the more effective leaders are the ones who are able to be both optimistic and realistic. [3]


A leader is working with colleagues and is using their reality testing skills to take note of what they are observing around them.
A leader making sure everyone's on the same page - reality testing in action at a team meeting.

Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash


If you’re often catastrophizing, you might be thinking in an overly negative way. That might mean you’re always thinking your senior management is mad at you. Or your team doesn’t trust you. Or you didn’t get your point across well enough during a presentation.


If you feel like you often sugarcoat reality, you might be reacting in an overly positive way. By the way, this is where I’ve had to do some re-learning. I’ve been a RAMPANT optimist my entire life, often driving the people around me absolutely up the wall with my positive thinking. Through a series of weird events and lessons from the universe, I’ve come to learn that being positive is great, AND that it’s also necessary to pay attention to risks, acknowledge reality, and fix things when they’re not right. So I want to remind you it’s okay to hold onto beliefs that things will work out…and that it’s critical to test out that thinking next to reality.


Which of these scenarios feels more familiar to you? Do you tend to approach things with an overly positive or overly negative mindset? With that answer in mind, let’s take a look at this next activity that can help you find a middle ground.

  • Activity # 2 - Journal about a recent situation when you were emotionally charged

Think back to a recent time when you had a:

  • Disagreement with a colleague

  • Deadline to make a choice soon

  • Meeting with your boss when they were questioning your ideas

Got a situation in mind? Good! Now try to take notes on the following:

1. What did you observe as true during the situation?

2. How did you feel at the moment?

3. What aspects of the situation are you interpreting based on the way you felt?

4. How accurate do you think your interpretations are?

Emotions should have a role in the choices we make. But there’s one last critical skill I want to call attention to next.



3. Impulse Control


Can you be patient and calm before making a decision?


Do you try to take in information and make as purposeful a choice as possible?


Can you take time to think before you act without regretting your actions most of the time?


If that sounds like you, then good news for you on our third and last decision making skill we’re about to explore. It’s impulse control.


If you found yourself saying something like “Sometimes I take too long to make a choice,” or “I can often speak too soon,” then that’s okay, too. Let’s take a closer look at this skill.


Impulse control involves being able to pause and think before acting. It’s about knowing when to act on emotions (and more importantly, when not to). [1]


Reflecting before you speak is a critical part of decision making. Feeling emotions and making them a part of your leadership is valuable. Especially for other EQ skills like self-perception and self-expression. They’re how you connect with others and relate to them.


This Forbes article by Prudy Gourguechon highlights the distinction between showing emotion at work and acting impulsively on emotions. The key skill here is learning how to take your time when making decisions without letting emotions take over. [4]


Feeling too impulsive? Here are some suggestions that can help ground you in your decision making.

  • Activity #3- Find ways to ground yourself when you’re feeling impulsive

Some grounding activities I recommend are:

  • Taking 5 slow breaths before responding

  • Telling someone “I need some time to think and get back to you”

  • Going for a walk to clear your mind

Most importantly, give yourself room to make mistakes.



Conclusion


Decision making is a significant part of your leadership. It’s also a meaningful part of your personal life, too. It plays a role in how you take care of yourself, and how you choose to show up in the world.


So I want you to choose to be kind to yourself when working on your decision making skills. Reflect on what feels right for you.


That’s also what queering leadership is all about. There’s more than one way you can show up as a queer leader. And I want you to find that for yourself.


If you’re ready to continue that journey and find more leadership confidence– great.


Come join me on my email list. It’s where you’ll want to be to stay in the loop about the coaching offerings you can be a part of.


See you there!


Links to References


[1]https://www.lizcruzconsulting.com/_files/ugd/ce3357_ef27e6d6093d44268b842000f3a7e4e3.pdf

[2]https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2022/03/25/how-open-mindedness-encourages-growth-in-leadership/?sh=6a9751d53d77

[3]https://extension.psu.edu/realistic-and-optimistic-managing-mindset-in-challenging-times

[4]https://www.forbes.com/sites/prudygourguechon/2018/04/03/a-neglected-but-essential-leadership-trait-why-self-control-really-matters/?sh=1e4de63f787a

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