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The Globe and Mail

How do you know whether your decision is the right one?

This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Most leaders feel a constant pressure to make decisions, often in a short period of time with critical eyes watching and keeping score.

While hindsight is 20/20, often there are no second chances in decision making, especially for leaders. Poor decisions can be career-ending or limiting. Rightly or wrongly, most leaders are judged by others based on their last decision.

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Strong leaders accept responsibility for their decisions – whether they turn out to be good or bad – while weak leaders often try to blame others for their mistakes. Call this a sign of leadership maturity or integrity. You have to be responsible for all the decisions you make.

How do you ensure you make the best decisions? When faced with making a significant call, it can help to use a checklist that allows you to see the issue from four angles:


Humans got to the top of the food chain because we respect fear. However, if fear is not managed, it can negatively influence your decision making. Effective decision makers are objective and not ruled by fear.

Questions to ask: What is the key issue? What is at stake? What is the obvious risk?


Successful decision making requires correct information. Take time to get all the available facts. Be open to listening to others' points of view. Don't be blinded by assumptions.

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Questions to ask: What are the facts we know now? What facts are missing? What additional information is needed to make the best decision?


Time constraints and the urgency of a decision influence when it has to be made.

Questions to ask: When must a decision be made? What is the risk if the decision is delayed? Is there a risk for making a decision quickly?


A leader's judgment will define their future success. Every decision has consequences, so evaluate the risk of each decision.

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Questions to ask: Are you ready to accept 100 per cent responsibility for this decision? Would you want to see it on the front page of the newspaper? If not, why?

Make decisions carefully, as a leader's legacy is defined by his or her decisions and their results.

Bill Howatt (@billhowatt) is president of Howatt HR Consulting in Kentville, N.S.

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