The #1 Thing You Need to Make Your Best Decisions (And No, It’s Not Past Performance Data)

We make 35,000 conscious decisions a day. Everything from what to eat and what roads to drive to what new strategy to bet on at work.

The ever-changing market of the last two decades has called upon leaders to be dynamic and growth-minded. And this past year, the moving floor beneath our feet dropped three feet suddenly. Again and again we’ve learned that getting comfortable is a thing of the past. Instead, we must get comfortable with change.

As a leader, you’re being paid to make good decisions. Decisions that deliver upon your organization’s goals: profit, growth, efficiency, etc. Decisions also build upon themselves. With every big decision, many smaller ones follow. So making a good decision early on is far more valuable than fixing a bad one later.

You have to become an amazing instant data miner. That means developing the ability to see, hear, and sense a situation--and then quickly make a decision as if you had a crystal ball.

Dynamic decision making is about leading from a place of opportunity instead of falling back on proven models and past performance. I recently connected with a former colleague on this very topic. He shared how releasing the pressure to know the right answer and allowing for quick decision-making to try new ideas and strategies in real time has led to seven years of profit growth, despite everything going on around them. The company has reinvented its model and tactics several times, but the freedom to make decisions without an overdependence on previous data has been fruitful.

Good decisions used to be made by leaders seeing trends from the past and pulling the thread forward in continuation of what was, only with optimizations along the way. Now, decision making is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle dumped on a table: You have to start fresh with each new puzzle, though you can (and should) use strategies to solve it just as you have other puzzles in the past (for example, separate the edge pieces first, find the corners, group like colors/patterns, look at the picture on the box, etc.).

Likewise, there are strategies we can use over and over again to make accurate decisions in the face of uncertainty and change. Instead of creating a linear path from the past to the future, we need to learn to be present and respond in the moment.

I call this approach to decision making “human-centered planning” Think of this as your data-gathering tool that can read beyond what’s known. How do you get there? With something important yet scarce in today’s world: presence.

Presence is the most efficient way to arrive at an accurate decision.

Here’s how it’s done:

Step 1: Gather data: find out the context, the known information and the thinking behind the question

This seems obvious, but most people do not actually listen, they predicate and center decisions around what they know, not what the person asking them the question knows. Here’s a tip: If you’re already formulating an answer while someone is still asking the question, you’re not listening. Listen with a focus on them, not you. In addition to their words, pay attention to body language, tone of voice, side comments, and tangents. If you receive a question over email that needs a strategic response, get the person on the phone or Zoom to ask you the question shari