Decisions, Decisions: The Art of Asking the Right Questions

Okay, let’s talk about burnout.  We all know it when we see it – that feeling of chronic stress and exhaustion from working too hard, especially in the workplace. Burnout can happen to anyone, from entry-level employees to top-level leaders.  Burnout is real. Researcher and authors Christina Maslac, Susan E. Jackson of Rutgers, and Michael Leiter noted that there are six main causes for burnout of staff in organizations: 

  1. Unsustainable workload
  2. Perceived lack of control
  3. Insufficient rewards for effort
  4. Lack of a supportive community
  5. Lack of fairness
  6. Mismatched values and skills

I believe there is one more thing that contributes to burnout; decision fatigue. You know when you’ve been in endless meetings, brainstorming and ideating, and you still can’t make a decision? That’s decision fatigue, and it’s a real drain on your energy and motivation.  So what is causing the exhaustion?   

As leaders, we know how to problem-solve.  We need to make a decision (often a quick one) and see a path forward.  Lack of resources can also be a significant barrier to effective decision-making, as leaders may struggle to take action due to limited time, money, or other resources. This can lead to a lack of motivation among both leaders and their teams, as progress and results are hindered by resource constraints.

Another issue is a top-down organizational culture that relies on decisions being made at the top with little explanation or input from the team. This type of decision-making puts distance between senior management and the team, and the impact is a feeling of defeat and suffocates creativity and motivation.

Then finally, fear of commitment; when you’re afraid of committing to a decision, it can cause you to hesitate, procrastinate, or even avoid making a decision altogether. This can lead to missed opportunities, delays, and frustration for both you and your team.  The fear of commitment may stem from a variety of sources, such as a lack of confidence in your own judgment, a fear of making mistakes or failing, or a reluctance to take responsibility for the outcome of a decision. 

So do we give up? Of course not.  Here are five critical questions – we can ask ourselves (and others) when we are asked to make a decision: 

  1. What is the exact decision being made?
  2. Am I the right person to make this decision (and if not who is)? 
  3. Do I have all the information needed to make the right decision? If not, then who does? 
  4. What are the options and their risk?
  5. Do I have the right resources to enact the decision? 

Ultimately, as a leader, we have to make decisions.  While the decisions you make may not always be perfect, asking the key questions can improve the quality of your decision-making process. By doing so, you will be in a better position to make decisions that have a positive impact on both your team and your leadership.

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