15 Tips for Making More Objective Business Decisions

It's easy to choose a path based on preconceived notions, but business leaders must be as objective as possible when making decisions that impact their company.

Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights.
Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights. Newsweek Expert Forum

It's easy to choose a path based on preconceived notions, but business leaders must be as objective as possible when making decisions that impact their company.

Objective decisions are vital to the success of a business. Sometimes, leaders have to make tough choices that may feel personal, like letting an employee go or hiring one candidate over another. Leaders may also be too close to the business to see a problem that needs to be fixed or a solution that might work better than a system already in place.

These decisions and considerations contribute to a business's bottom line and are therefore important to carefully consider. Below, 15 Newsweek Expert Forum members give their best advice for making sure leaders let go of assumptions about their business and make decisions more objectively.

1. Establish Clear Criteria

One of the best ways to prevent assumptions from clouding your decision making is to establish clear criteria for evaluating your options. This makes it easier to put your emotions and biases aside to make objective choices that match your business needs. If you document the criteria you use, you also can help your organization scale by empowering others to make good decisions on your behalf. - Tom Wheelwright, WealthAbility

2. Develop a Process for Vetting Data

Well, we know what they say about assumptions. Beyond that, I think Deming summed it up perfectly by saying, "In God we trust, all others bring data." Here comes the tricky part, as too much data can be just as bad as making assumptions. As such, focus on developing a process to vet the data, analyze outcomes and deliver the message as succinctly as possible. A4 reports can be a wonderful tool for this. - Gregory Thomas, 375 Park Associates

3. Ask Questions to Challenge Assumptions

Challenge your assumptions by asking others for their input and feedback. Solicit information from a diverse pool so you gain insights from a variety of constituencies. Asking "What if?" and "So what?" can also help to uncover the relevancy of current processes and systems. - Diane Helbig, Helbig Enterprises

4. Take a Step Back

Take a step out of your emotions and subjective personal bias and detach from the situation in order to see things more clearly. Pretend that you don't know anything about the situation and look at the proposal from the eyes of a "dumb" end user. Does the proposal make sense? Is there something obvious that is being overlooked? What questions would a child ask? Allow room to pivot. - Margie Kiesel, Avaneer Health

5. Cultivate a Supportive Work Environment

Create a safe space for courageous conversations and healthy challenges. Detach opinions from your identity, and have no unconditional love for your own ideas. Fostering positive team dynamics with psychological safety balances the scales of power. Title agnostic inclusion, with diverse perspectives, will help to achieve the best possible decisions. - Britton Bloch, Navy Federal

6. Recognize When You're Making Assumptions

First, I think it's important to understand when you are making assumptions. You have to learn to recognize that you are doing this. Look for words like "should," "must" and "would." Often, we become so used to making assumptions that we don't realize we are doing it. - Elliott Smith, The Ohana Addiction Treatment Center

7. Refocus Through Physical Activity

Anyone struggling to focus should get up and do something active. That can be taking a walk, doing some physical activity like a workout or performing some home chores. Physical activity will clear your head and reduce stress levels. That will help you concentrate better and regain focus. A lack of focus can happen by sitting in one place too long. - Baruch Labunski, Rank Secure

8. Speak With Employees to Gain More Perspective

Gain the perspectives of not only those that you typically consult with, but also take the time to converse with employees that will perhaps be most affected by the decision. This will "humanize" your decision as well as provide insight into how it may impact the people in your organization. Redetermine your main objective and motivator prior to making the decision to prevent impulsivity and self-centered thinking. - Leah Marone, Corporate Wellness Consultant

9. Ask Yourself What Information You Still Need

When I trained at Yale for an internal medicine residency, my preceptor would always ask, "Do you have enough information to care for this patient?" As simple as the question was, the answer was sometimes, "No." Furthermore, developing a plan without information could be harmful. So when I face a business challenge, I often ask myself the same question, but insert "problem" for "patient." - Kevin Carr, Edera L3C (operates the National Coordination Center)

10. Take Opinions From People Outside the Organization

The traditional business tools are terrific, but don't underestimate the value of an occasional thought jag or outside perspective to help you think differently about your business. It may sound unconventional, but asking for a quick, unbiased, fresh perspective on your business or problem from someone like how your rideshare driver can help you see with fresh eyes when other methods fall short. - Arturo Elizondo, EVERY™

11. Identify Your Weaknesses

Objectively look at your weaknesses in thinking and behavior and identify your strengths in those situations. Thereafter, using that information to keep improving in future situations could be the vital difference and the key to unlocking optimal performance. - Kira Graves, Kira Graves Consulting

12. Embrace a Journey of Emotional Intelligence

My suggestion for leaders is to embark on growing their own emotional intelligence and in doing so, this will help them become more self-aware, more open-minded and help them in every area of their lives—not just in business. The research shows that people with high emotional intelligence make more money and are promoted over their peers with lower emotional intelligence. - Lisa Lundy, Lisa A Lundy

13. Get Advice From Someone You and Others Respect

Identify someone in your circle that you and others respect. Reach out to them and say, "Everybody I know respects you, and one thing I respect most about you is that you never make assumptions. If you're willing, I would like to hop on a 10-minute call for you to offer me any insights or tips about how I can do a better job stopping my assumptions." - Mark Goulston, Mark Goulston, M.D., Inc.

14. Be More Aware of Bias

The first step is awareness. Are we coming from a biased point of view or from what we know from the past? Are we looking at things in a new way, like a blank slate? Are we focusing on what we want or like or on what might be possible? Awareness of how we are approaching decisions is the first step to being more objective. - Chris Heller, OJO Labs

15. Look to Your Data

I recommend looking at your data. For me, that means marketing data. By looking at data to make decisions, you are able to look at the facts instead of opinions and assumptions. Data won't lie to you as long as you are reading it correctly. - Mary Cate Spires, Reputation Avenue

The Newsweek Expert Forum is an invitation-only network of influential leaders, experts, executives, and entrepreneurs who share their insights with our audience.
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