The Buck Stops Here – How to make sound decisions

Making difficult choices at work can be challenging, especially when the outcome of those decisions can significantly impact the organization and the people it serves. Whether you are a manager or an individual contributor, there are times when you will be faced with difficult choices that require you to consider your options and carefully make the best decision possible. We cannot deny that decision-making is a necessary aspect of any professional role, especially in positions that involve decision-making responsibilities. Whether deciding between two job offers, choosing a project to focus on, or making a tough call that could impact your team, the following strategies can help you navigate difficult choices confidently and clearly.

Gather Information.

The first step in making any difficult decision is to gather as much information as possible. This may involve conducting research, talking to experts, or seeking feedback from others. It is essential to ensure that the information you gather is reliable, unbiased, and relevant to your decision. Next, analyze the data and consider how it may impact your decision.

Define the problem.

The first step in making difficult choices is to define the problem you are facing clearly. Next, identify the factors that are contributing to the challenge and make a list of all possible options. Next, write down your goals, values, and priorities to help you stay focused on what matters most.

Consider the Consequences.

Before making any decision, it is essential to consider the potential consequences. Ask yourself what your decision’s short- and long-term impacts are and how it could affect the organization, your team, and yourself. Consider any risks associated with your decision and whether they are acceptable. The idea that decisions are risk-free is a fantasy, so define your risk tolerance. List out the advantages and disadvantages of each option. Analyze each factor and consider how each choice would affect your current situation, team, and future opportunities. Be objective and realistic in your analysis, and carefully weigh each pro and con.

Consider your values.

Values are the guiding principles that shape our decisions and actions. Making difficult choices often involves balancing competing values. For example, a decision to cut costs may conflict with the value of providing the highest quality service to members/customers. Identifying your values and prioritizing them in your decision-making process is essential. Before making a difficult choice, take the time to consider your values and how they align with each option. Ask yourself which option aligns more with your personal and professional values.

Seek input from others.

Making decisions in a vacuum can be challenging and may lead to suboptimal outcomes. It can be helpful to seek input from others with experience or expertise in your complex decision area. Many executives find an executive coach can be an excellent sounding board for decision-making. Talk to trusted colleagues or mentors, and ask for their information and advice. Consider all feedback carefully, but remember that the decision is yours to make.

Take a step back.

Sometimes it can be helpful to step back from the situation and take time to reflect. Allow yourself some space to clear your mind and consider how each option aligns with your goals, values, and priorities. Then, take some time to engage in activities that bring you joy or help you relax, such as exercise or spending time with friends or family. But be cautious that you are not using these activities to avoid deciding on using them to get perspective.

Make the decision.

Once you have analyzed all options and considered all factors, it’s time to decide. Remember that no decision is perfect, and uncertainty is always involved in any choice. Trust your instincts, be confident in your decision, and take action.

Evaluate your decision.

After making a difficult decision, take some time to reflect on the outcome. Evaluate how the decision has affected your situation and whether it has aligned with your personal or the organization’s goals and values. Finally, consider what you would do differently in the future and use this experience to prepare for the next big decision in your life.

Consider using a Decision Matrix.

The decision matrix, also known as a weighted decision matrix or a decision-making grid, is a powerful tool that helps individuals and organizations make informed decisions by considering multiple criteria and weighing their relative importance. It is beneficial when several options are available, each with pros and cons. The decision matrix involves identifying and evaluating the options available, assigning weights to each criterion, and scoring each option based on how well it meets each criterion.

The first step in creating a decision matrix is to identify the criteria that are important in making the decision. These criteria should be relevant to the decision being made and based on the goals and objectives of the individual or organization. For example, if the decision is about which new car to buy, the criteria could include price, fuel efficiency, safety features, and reliability.

Once the criteria have been identified, they are assigned weights based on their relative importance. For example, if fuel efficiency is considered more important than safety features, it would be given a higher weight.

Next, each option is evaluated and scored based on how well it meets each criterion. The scores can be on a scale of 1 to 10 or any other that makes sense. For example, if one of the criteria is fuel efficiency, the options can be scored based on their miles per gallon (MPG) ratings.

After all the options have been scored, the total score for each option is calculated by multiplying the score for each criterion by its weight and adding up the results. The option with the highest total score is considered the best option.

One of the advantages of using a decision matrix is that it helps individuals and organizations make objective decisions based on data and facts rather than emotions or opinions. It also allows for considering multiple criteria and their relative importance, which can lead to a more informed decision.

However, it is essential to note that decision matrices are only as good as the criteria and weights used to create them. If the wrong measures are used, or the consequences are not assigned appropriately, the results may not be accurate or helpful.

Regardless of how you make decisions, incorporating the decision matrix is a powerful tool to help individuals and organizations make informed and sound decisions.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

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