Skip to main content Skip to footer

7 decision making tips for new managers

Caitlin McCormack 6 min read
Get started

Congratulations on landing a new managerial role. Although your skills as an individual helped you land this job, your effectiveness as a decision-maker is what will help you succeed in this role and any other future roles, e.g. in project management. As a manager, you will probably spend a lot of time making decisions, both small and big. And although you cannot always be right, you want to be able to make better decisions each time you have to do it.

So, how do you improve and strengthen your decision making? This article offers some ideas on how new managers can improve their decision-making process and eventually make better decisions.


1. Learn from Experience

Decision-making should always be treated as a science. This means that you should record your decisions and how you arrived at them. You then follow that up with some notes regarding how events turned out.

While you might not have to go that far for all the decisions, good governance as a new manager will require that you keep a record of all critical project decisions. As a result, you need to occasionally take some time to reflect on your recent choices, so that you can learn from them. Give equal attention to one that turned out well, and ones that weren’t quite as good.

Each time you need to make a new decision, try and see what you could learn from the past. What decision have you encountered and which shares one or several salient characteristics with what is currently at hand? We often tend to believe that all decisions are unique and forget the value of experience. Wisdom and healthy decision-making come from learning, generalizing, and finally applying to the specific scenario.

Also, remember that some similar situations could be different in a certain way. What is this difference? Besides, you should bear in mind that the reason why a particular decision turned out to be problematic or beneficial might not be related to the entire decision-making process.

2. Use Data Carefully and Extensively

A good practice when you encounter a difficult decision is to find an answer to the question: “What data is required to make this decision?” This effort will compel you to go beyond the data already at hand and ensure you’re creating a complete picture of the evidence. Many are the times when we focus entirely on information that supports our issue while suppressing or ignoring all contradicting information. And bear in mind that while data will often display a correlation between two aspects, association isn’t causation. Do not fall into the correlation trap.

3. Entertain Doubt

There’s always doubt: you will never be as precise as you’d like to be. So, you must stop pretending that you’re more confident than you actually are. Always embrace the unknowns and accept that you could be wrong.

Make Decisions Based on Experience

We are not advocating for decision paralysis. Instead, you should test every decision you make against various scenarios. Ask: “What is this choice was completely wrong?” Think about how the decision could play out while considering aspects that could frustrate it. Be sure to test it against alternative decisions, against previous scenarios and, if it appears to be the best choice, go with it.

Get started

4. Give Yourself Options

Here is a simple relationship you should bear in mind: P(Success) = F(Number of options). This basically means that your probability of success is a function of the options you consider.

In practice, the more options at your disposal, the higher the chances of your success. But there is a limit. You do not want to have too many options since more than four options will make it more difficult for you to make a decision. One option means that you have no alternative, two options mean that you’re in a dilemma to choose between yes and no, three options mean you have a real choice to make. With five choices, you’ll probably be more concerned about leaving out the good options than about selecting the good ones.

5. Draw Your Firm’s Values in The Decision-Making Process

If the values are well-defined and visible in the workplace, they could offer invaluable support for some of the toughest decisions you have to make. Values often define expectations for behavior, including pursuing innovation, navigating conflicts, serving customers, and engaging with coworkers. For stronger decision-making, always strive to draw the firm’s values into your every-day decision-making activities. In addition, you should make sure your team members are educated on how these values apply to each situation that requires making a decision.

6. Always Argue Things Out

To make better decisions as a new manager, you will need to encourage rigorous argument and debate. Give different team members the responsibility of creating a case for every option. Give others the task of identifying flaws in all arguments. Track the arguments so that you fully understand every choice and see it from various perspectives. Identify whether the reasoning is backed by data, how it’s interpreted, or about values, people, or vision. Each could have a different resolution or even none. If it is essential, nominate a team that will raise arguments against your preferred view to test it as hard as they can.

New Managers Are Judged on Decision Making

7. Bring in Outsiders

Bringing outsiders into your decision-making process could be a significant step towards making better decisions. Outsiders can help improve your decisions in three ways:
Being different, they will think differently. They also know less, so will ask the questions you probably overlooked. If you take the time to answer their questions, you will easily learn from them.

Difference creates a well-defined point of view as well as new insights. Outsiders can bring in their own experience and provide creative alternatives.

They are objective and will care more about their decision rather than their relationships and egos. Group think is a significant risk to proper decision-making. If people in a group are worried about causing a conflict, they could involuntarily reduce the speed of making crucial decisions. This is something outsiders are less prone to.

As you advance in your career and take up more responsibilities, so will decisions become more challenging. As a manager, you’ll eventually be involved in making decisions like how to deploy resources, where to invest, and even who to hire. You’ll encounter ethical dilemmas in instances where your decision-choice is gray. Improving your decision-making skills is a crucial part of growing in a managerial role, so you should always make it an indispensable part of your ongoing improvement.

Get started

Get started