4 Principals to Better Decision Making

Improve your ability to choose the best path.
Written by Chris Schafer on Apr 26, 2018
4 Principals to Better Decision Making

Over the years I found that talking to CEO's and decision makers of organizations is like that of conducting a KLE. Key Leader Engagements or KLE's are high stakes engagements with local tribal leaders where difficult decisions were made.

Leaders of these KLE's could be considered the CEOs of any business. They manage resources and make decisions that impacted the livelihoods of others in the tribe. I conducted many KLE's during my career in the military and found four principals of decision making that are universal in all settings and with all cultures. They include:

  1. Actively Listening: 
  2. Challenge Assumptions:
  3. Brutal Honesty:
  4. Empathy: 

Actively Listen: 

At thebalance.com it is pointed out that active listening can create awareness by gathering relevant information about the given situation. 

"Active listening is the process by which an individual secures information from another individual or group. The "active" element involves taking steps to draw out information that might not otherwise be shared." 

Challenge Your Assumptions:

It is essential to overcome ambiguity because it leads to assumptions. Ask open-ended questions to achieve a heightened level of situational awareness and understanding. The hard part will be to remain silent and actively listen while the other party answers questions. 

Be Brutally Honest:

Being less than brutally honest will lead to disappointment. To be successful know the desired objective from the relationship and tell it straight with confidence. If the discussion is not mutually supportive, be willing to continue the conversation at a later time. 

Be Empathetic:

Empathy is the ability to relate to the other party's plight and differs from sympathy. Sympathy is feeling pity for the person without really understanding their dilemma. One can build a certain level of empathy by asking non-leading open-ended questions and actively listening. It is this ability to be empathetic in uncertain conditions that leads to making decisions that create a positive return.


Photos courtesy of author

By Chris Schafer

Chris is a 25+ year U.S. Army retired veteran and spent much of his military career on 3rd Special Forces Operational Detachments Alpha (ODA) teams. His career includes many deployments leading ODA teams advising and training people from all over the world. Chris earned a dual Master’s Degree in Business and Project management and co-authored Intrepid Professionals: How Principals from the Military Mindset Build Extraordinary Leaders, Teams, and Businesses. Chris is the Chief Executive of Military Affairs for SOLIDRed Concepts.