Making a Difficult Business Decision? 10 Ways Leaders Can Embrace and Overcome Fear


Business decision making can sometimes be a difficult process, with each decision potentially impacting employees or customers in a negative way. That potential to harm stakeholders may cause some leaders stress, even to the point of delaying decisions until they’re absolutely sure of the possible outcomes.

Learning how to understand and see fear as a natural part of doing business is key if entrepreneurs want to last long term. As leaders, the members of Newsweek Expert Forum are all familiar with the challenges of making decisions. Below, they share advice for fellow leaders to be able to embrace fear and make difficult business decisions with confidence.

1. Determine the Validity of the Fear

We all experience fear, so the issue is how we respond. Some get paralyzed, while others face it with speed and urgency. Understand that fear is an emotion triggered by our thoughts. It is important to validate whether our thoughts are grounded in reality or not. Many times it is that we are spiraling or letting our minds run doomsday scenarios. Focus on the facts and solutions. – Chris Heller, OJO Labs

2. Break Each Decision Down

Don’t give yourself an infinite amount of options in making decisions—that leads to paralysis. Narrow things down and realize that most people succeeded not despite their challenges, but specifically because of them. Difficulties force you to be creative and strategic and to make better-considered choices. – Suzanne Mattaboni, Suzanne Mattaboni Communications

3. Run a Risk Analysis

Do a risk analysis on the difficult decision you have to make. Consider what the best or worst things that can happen are and review your list. This will help tremendously in making your decision clear and also in giving you the confidence you need to move forward with action. – Jenna Hinrichsen, Advanced RPO

4. Make Decisions With Intent

As a physician, I was always trained to first “do no harm.” Translating that approach to business often delayed my decisions because I wanted to ensure that I was not making a wrong decision that might later cause harm—a common occurrence. Then a colleague of mine, an attorney, kept saying, “Deciding not to make a decision is a decision in itself.” This drove home the importance of making a decision. – Kevin Carr, Edera L3C (operates the National Coordination Center)

5. Know Your Desired Outcome

Have a clearly and specifically articulated desired outcome for every decision and a reason why. Follow it up with the best strategy and tactics for achieving that outcome and who will be performing them. Also, have a fallback plan if the first decision is not possible with the strategy and tactics for achieving it. – Mark Goulston, Mark Goulston, M.D., Inc.

6. Get Educated on Every Aspect of the Decision

We don’t get to choose our hardships and difficult decisions, but we do get to choose how we handle them. Conquer your fear by educating yourself, collecting the facts and then trusting your gut on how to move ahead. The wisdom that comes from any challenge more often than not repays itself over time, allowing you to mine even the greatest-seeming obstacles for better outcomes in business and life. – Arturo Elizondo, EVERY™

7. Assess Decisions Objectively

Fear is subjective, so be objective. Start with a pros and cons list or a costs/benefits analysis to assess all aspects of the decision. You will find that putting things down on paper in an objective manner can lead to the decision making being an easier process, with the facts speaking for themselves. You may also see that the initial fear you had may not be as bad as initially anticipated. – Nita Kohli, Kohli Advisors

8. Evaluate the True Source of the Fear

The key to embracing fear is to break it down and evaluate the source of the fear. Most of the time, fears are unsubstantiated and based on hearsay. When there is evidence to support the fear, conduct a risk/reward analysis to make an informed decision on the risks involved with the difficult business choices. – Jean Tien, Energetics of Being LLC

9. Don’t Let Fear Govern Everything

For business owners, life is full of challenges, and one must learn to have an equal balance. Fear is a cautionary measure that I appreciate, but I do not allow it to govern business decisions. Balance is absolutely necessary. – Tammy Sons, Tn Nursery

10. Learn to Embrace the Fear

Change creates uncertainty, chaos and, ultimately, hard work. Healthy companies are those that embrace change, evolve and focus on continued growth. The most difficult decisions are often the most important for success. Recognize and embrace the fear that comes from making decisions. Avoiding the feeling tends to only delay the inevitable and make change down the road even harder. – Jacob Kupietzky, HCT Executive Interim Management & Consulting


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