15 Ways Business Leaders Can Approach Decision Making More Objectively

When even small decisions can have a big impact on your business, removing bias is a critical step in the decision-making process.

Newsweek Expert Forum members share industry insights.
Newsweek Expert Forum

To be an entrepreneur is to expect change. The business world is rarely static, and leaders who are able to meet obstacles head-on and create solutions are better able to survive long term. This is why decision making plays such an important role in a successful business.

When time is limited and decisions have to be made, an objective approach can help ensure the best conclusion is reached. However, considering how big of a role people play in business and how often emotions can take over, remaining objective can be a challenge. Here, the members of Newsweek Expert Forum share strategies for letting go of assumptions and approaching the decision-making process with an unbiased view.

1. Let Go of the Emotions

The things that get in the way of objective decision making are emotions and ego. People often make decisions with their emotions and use data to justify those decisions. The key is to recognize those two things when it comes to approaching a decision or problem. Ask yourself if you're allowing your ego or emotions to guide you in one direction or another. This will help keep you objective. - Chloe Alpert, Medinas

2. Do Your Due Diligence

Assumptions about one's business are based on experience and gut instinct. In many cases, these assumptions are what make a business successful in the first place. However, it's important to understand that one's own assumptions are not the only way to be successful. Do research, see what competitors are doing and learn from your peers. This leads to educated decision making. - Sam Jordan, EnviTours

3. Drop the Ego

Check your ego at the door. Simple, right? Of course, it's not. Elitism lives in all of us, and that colors how we seek advice and from whom. Ask yourself, "Am I reaching out to this adviser because they have an alternative perspective or experience that could help me see my business differently, or am I reaching out because it's comfortable?" Infinite power lies in diversity of perspective. - Kayleen Brown, TMG360 Media, LLC

4. Remember There are Multiple Paths

I believe it's important for business owners to know there can be many paths to a desired outcome. While there may be one optimal path, most of the other paths still get you where you need to go. Don't be worried about always picking the right path; be worried about getting to the end and achieving your desired result as quickly as possible. - Brian Meert, AdvertiseMint

5. Go on a Backward Journey

Investigate why decisions have been made and why policies have been implemented. Take that investigation all the way back to the root cause. As part of the process, interview other stakeholders to see what their understanding is. Then ask what the result would be if a different decision was made or a different policy was enacted. - Diane Helbig, Helbig Enterprises

6. Consider the Perspectives of Customers

If your ideal clients and customers were leading this business, where would they focus? What would they think was essential or a waste of effort? As they are key indicators of success, viewing decisions from their perspective may help you get out of your own head. - Lauree Ostrofsky, Simply Leap, LLC

7. Listen and Ask Questions

Become a leader who listens and asks questions. By asking meaningful questions and really listening to the answers, leaders will become more empathetic, will learn more and will instill a sense of psychological safety within their team. Strong assumptions are associated with a fixed way of thinking. Challenge your assumptions with new ideas and opinions through listening and asking questions. - Kevin Vallely, The AIP Group

8. Talk To Your Team

Business leaders must engage their team members about day-to-day operations and find out how they can make their team members' work experiences better. Staying in touch with your team and in the know about what is happening in the trenches is vital to being effective as a leader and to the decision-making process. - Matt Drayton, Drayton Communications LLC

9. Recognize Your Biases

Acknowledge and counteract your biases. Honestly assess what emotions and past experiences are distorting your reality and subjectively influencing your decisions. Ask yourself, "What past experiences are giving me a biased view?" "What emotions are impacting or reducing the options that I have available?" "What biases have I formed that are opinion and not based in fact, business data or logic?" - Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

10. Focus on the Facts

Always focus on the data and the facts of your business. Don't buy into your fears or your limiting beliefs. Take the time to check yourself and take wins and losses as feedback, not commentary on how good you are as a leader. If you're making business decisions, gather data, determine your direction and then commit to taking the time to test and gather information. You either win or you learn! - Robbin McManne, Parenting for Connection

11. Remain Curious

Stay in a place of curiosity instead of jumping to conclusions. To make good decisions, we often need to slow our thinking down. Ask questions like, "What don't I know?" and "How else can I interpret that?" Search for and challenge the assumptions embedded in your conclusion and seek contrary information. Play your own devils advocate and stay open to being wrong. - Michelle Tillis Lederman, The Connector's Advantage

12. Seek Outside Opinions

Get an objective outside opinion or assessment on your business. Look at it through a lens other than your own. If this were someone else's business, what would your advice be to them? Use this as your new compass for decision making. - Jenna Hinrichsen, Advanced RPO

13. Talk to Users and Customers

Get out of the bubble and talk directly to users or customers to see what their experiences are. Whether this is fielding customer service calls or going to the mall and talking with random shoppers, try to get an unfiltered sense of your market, your competition and how customers actually experience your product or service. This effectively removes layers, filters and assumptions. - Todd Miller, ENRICH: Create Wealth in Time, Money, and Meaning

14. Embrace Discomfort

There are two most important things to keep in mind. First, you cannot get everyone on your side. No matter how brilliant or "right" you are, there will always be people who see it differently. Second, discomfort is inevitable, but struggle is added. If you are human, you are going to be uncomfortable some of the time, but you do not have to add tension and resistance to the discomfort. - Dave Mochel, Applied Attention

15. Expect Change

Continual change requires leaders to adapt to a fluid business environment. Approaching decision making objectively is to expect change. Several specific suggestions are: 1. Asking "what if" questions; 2. Clarifying intention from a 30,000-foot viewpoint; 3. Consider listening to people with opposing perspectives; and 4. Create a personal centering practice so you are in the calm eye of the storm. - Karen Valencic, Spiral Impact

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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