Decision Making for Business Leaders: Stress Relief and Critical Thinking for Problem Solving

Reducing stress through stress management techniques is helpful for the critical thinking process required for effective decision making and problem solving.

Most people, when confronted with a tough decision or a problem to solve will settle on the first plausible solution. This is, according to the book, The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving by Morgan D. Jones, called satisficing. Jones explains that the term satisficing was coined by Herbert Simon in 1955. It is a merger of the words ‘satisfy’ and ‘suffice’. A person practicing satisficing settles for the first solution they can think of rather than searching analytically through facts to find the best solution to a problem.

The Value of Critical Thinking

People make bad decisions every day. No one is exempt. Anyone can make a bad decision. Developing effective decisions is a common challenge both in business and in everyday life. Problem solving and decision making requires taking the time to look for alternative solutions without involving emotions. Business leaders need to look at the information available while considering stakeholder’s perspectives. No decision will ever please everyone, but an effective decision maker in business needs to come up with the best possible solution.

Use Stress Management Techniques for Problem Solving

One decision making tool most people can easily use for problem solving is learning what went wrong. Trying to fix a problem without understanding how it became a problem leads to bigger problems. Getting upset or even scared when things go wrong is part of being human. It is a part of being human that a good leader needs to be able to work through quickly because making decisions when emotionally stressed means the decisions are being made without all of the information that is needed.

An emotionally stressed leader – if untrained in decision making and problem solving – is likely to revert to the very human reaction of grabbing the first solution that comes along. This very basic part of human nature makes it important for effective leaders to know how to calm themselves quickly. A couple of deep, calming breaths will be helpful for some leaders, while others may need a few moments alone to do a yoga stretch. Other managers should try any stress relief strategy they are comfortable using.

Two Types of Decision Making to Consider

Decisions made when calm – and after considering as many alternatives as possible – are likely to be the most effective. Robert H. Vaughn, in his book Decision Making and Problem Solving in Management, breaks the decision making process into two segments: Programmed decisions and Non-Programmed decisions. Programmed decisions refer to the basic decision-making process that is involved in the planning process.

Non-Programmed decisions are the responses to the unexpected. Non-Programmed decisions involve problem solving skills. They are the responses leaders are required to develop when the unexpected happens. The things that cannot be foreseen are often the most troublesome in business. All decision making efforts go through a basic process but problem solving skills have to be more directly focused. Problem solving skills will be focused on the threat at hand and also on preventing it from happening again.

Benefits of Effective Decision Making

There are multiple benefits business leaders will see from becoming trained and practiced in decision making and problem solving skills. The first benefit is that fewer profits will be lost due to bad decisions. Another benefit is that employees will have better morale. No one wants to work for a weak leader. People do not like to work for leaders who routinely make bad decisions. That drives up costs for the company because it is expensive to hire and train an employee only to have to do it all over again in a week or a month.

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