How to Make Critical Decisions

Posted by Todd Smith

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In How to Make Great Decisions, I shared with you two simple, four-word questions that can have a profound impact on your success rate in making basic, everyday decisions. Today, we are going to examine how former President Bill Clinton made critical decisions during his tenure as President of the United States.

I learned about his decision-making process at a leadership event for church leaders at Willow Creek Community Church.  One of the guest speakers was former President Bill Clinton. As part of the interview, Pastor Bill Hybels asked President Clinton what was the hardest decision he had faced as President. He responded by saying, “Sending young men and women to war.”

Pastor Hybels’s next question was, “How did you make that type of decision?”  President Clinton responded by describing a process of making decisions that I have used to make every major decision since then.  Here are the key points I took away from that interview:

A President’s Process for Decision-making

•    Seek wise counsel—He brought together the highest-ranking, most valued members of his team, including those who had the greatest insight, into the situation.

•    Understand the facts—With this group, he thoroughly discussed the key facts of the situation so he would have a complete understanding of the challenge at hand.

•    Discover all options—The team then brainstormed and listed every realistic option they could think of.

•    Reduce your options—After considering all available options, they would narrow the list down to the most obvious choices.

•    Explore the pros and cons of each option—The team then would make a list of the pros and cons of each option.  After completing this step, the top two or three options were generally obvious.

•    Focus on the cons—They would then dissect each con and discuss how they would handle it if it had to be addressed.

•    Make the decision—After going through this process with his most valued advisors, President Clinton would make his decision.

Importance of Teamwork

Pastor Hybels then asked President Clinton, “Do you look for consensus among the members of your team in making these types of critical decisions?

He said he would always seek consensus among his team.  He said, “If I bring together my best people and go through this process, I would like for us to collectively agree on the best solution.”

Since listening to this interview and incorporating the decision-making process recommended by President Clinton, I have made very few bad decisions. Like many of you, I have been kicked in the teeth enough times to realize the importance of seeking wise counsel and removing all emotion from my decisions, planning for the worst-case scenario, and then making my decisions based on facts and logic.

If you have any tips that you have found beneficial in making critical decisions, please share them in the comment section below.

As I wrap up this three-day series on decisions, remember, your life is a reflection of all your decisions. You can improve your life by improving your decisions.

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About the Author:

Todd Smith is a successful entrepreneur of 43 years and founder of Little Things Matter. This blog contains over 200 of his timeless life lessons.

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