How to make decisions

Practical advice on work issues

Anyone working in social care has to make a lot of decisions and some will be very difficult, with far-reaching consequences. So decision-making is a very important skill and one that needs to be continually developed. But, just as important as making good decisions is the ability to see them through. Recent research by the Chartered Management Institute found that many senior managers are confident in their ability to make decisions, but feel hampered by colleagues, bureaucracy and a lack of resources. Advice from the institute is outlined below.

1 Stay objective
Objectivity and the ability to look at each situation as it stands is crucial. This can be hard when dealing with sensitive, complex issues and people’s lives, so keep focused on the desired outcomes. “Think about what you hope to achieve and the other options available to you so that your decision is as informed as possible,” says Jo Causon, director of marketing and corporate affairs at the Chartered Management Institute. Your decisions have an impact on colleagues, so remember to consider them. Or, if objectivity is a concern, then ask for their opinions.

2 Consult
Consultation is a key part of effective decision-making, particularly in a multi-agency setting. Many social care organisations require consultation on a regular basis, with colleagues, partners and clients, so it’s a very necessary skill.
If you are a manager, consultation is also more likely to engender good team spirit and co-operation. “Involving team members and colleagues effectively will increase the likelihood of them accepting your choice since they will have made a contribution to the result,” says Causon. “It will also enable you to weigh up all of the likely implications and make you more aware of the bigger picture.”

3 Don’t be rushed
In an ideal world, we can take all the time we need to make decisions. The reality is of course very different when time pressures weigh heavily. But in social work decisions should not be made hastily. “It is very important that people have the time to make good decisions, yet time is often lacking,” says Causon. “However, it is essential not to be pushed into making an instant decision.”

4 Communicate
Once a decision has been reached, make sure people know why it has been made. If it is a decision about the way your employees should operate, for example, then explain why the decision has been made and how it affects them. Communication is vital, yet too often managers make decisions they don’t explain. Don’t assume people will automatically understand why things have changed.

5 Admit you are wrong
We all get it wrong sometimes. The important thing is to recognise you have made a mistake and to make all possible efforts to remedy the situation. Do not panic or pretend the decision was right. Your job now is to try and rectify the situation as best you can. Also, use the experience as a learning one. “Look back on past decisions and learn from mistakes because you can use the skills you have developed to move forward,” says Causon.



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