Decision making is one of the biggest responsibilities of an entrepreneur or business owner.
You’re in charge of determining the strategic direction for the business, hiring people, coordinating plans and responding to changes and crises as they emerge. Because businesses are logical, numbers-driven organizations, your decisions need to be as logical as possible if you want to succeed.
The problem is, it’s hard to remain completely logical when making decisions in a business you’re emotionally invested in. You’re going to feel sentimental attachments and have emotional reactions to events, but it’s important to prevent these feelings from obscuring your logical decision making processes.
Keep an eye out for the following signs that your emotions are clouding your ability to make grounded, sensible decisions.
1. You consider personal relationships.
Personal relationships can be important, especially in a startup environment, when you’re working with a small team.
You need to know how your teammates work with and engage with one another, and you need to be on friendly terms with them to keep morale high. However, if your personal relationships start dominating your decision making, it could spell eventual trouble for your organization.
For example, let’s say you have an employee, who has become a close personal friend of yours, but this employee has been failing to meet your expectations when it comes to productivity and contributions. Your personal attachments to him or her may prevent you from making the right decision and firing him or her, which could cause harm to your organization.
2. You hold tightly onto your own ideas.
It’s natural to treat your ideas with a bit of favoritism, but it’s easy for this tendency to balloon into something that’s not only illogical, but straight-up counterproductive.
For example, if you come up with a new idea for a sales strategy that you’re especially proud of, you might become overly attached to it once you put it into action.
If you don’t see results from it, you might rationalize that it’s because it hasn’t been given a long enough time to take effect, or you might use alternative data points to support its existence. Try to look at the data from an outside perspective, as objectively as possible, to compensate for this. Trust the numbers.
3. You bounce back and forth on your position.
Do you ever find yourself going back and forth excessively on a decision? If you’re facing a truly difficult decision, with legitimate merits and drawbacks to both sides, this is natural.
However, it could be an indication that your emotions are influencing your position. For example, if you feel especially exhausted or pessimistic, you might lean toward a safer, easier option. On the other hand, if you feel excited or optimistic, you might lean toward a riskier one with a higher potential payoff. Consider what you’re feeling, and how those feelings are affecting your switchbacks.
Related: The 7 Styles of Decision Making
4. You can’t identify why you made a decision.
This is a retrospective strategy, but it’s one of the most important ones on this list. Think back to the last decision you made, and try to summarize why you made that decision in a sentence or two.
You can also apply this to a decision you’re about to make by justifying why you’re making this decision. If you’re answer is “I don’t know,” or if it takes you a while to find a logical justification, it could be because your decision was driven by emotion.
5. Other people don’t understand your rationale.
Don’t misinterpret this; you don’t need to rely on other people to make your decisions. In fact, going with what other people think or recommend will eventually compromise your vision as an entrepreneur. However, it’s often valuable to learn what other people think about your decision options, as doing so can open you up to new, alternative perspectives.
If you start explaining your latest decision to other people, and none of them understand your line of reasoning, it could be because you’re influenced by emotions, which a person removed from the situation doesn’t have. Think carefully about what’s really influencing you, and see if you can pinpoint an emotion that’s driving that rationale.
None of this is to say that emotions shouldn’t play any part in your decision making process. In fact, if you made decisions based only on logic, with no emotion whatsoever, you’d become robotic, and you’d miss out on some of the greatest advantages of the human mind, like instinct and creativity.
Related: 5 Decisions You'll Always Regret
The key is to not let your emotions rule or dominate your logical side. Emotions can serve as influencers for your decisions so long as they’re recognized for what it is, and you keep it in check.
Keep this in mind as you continue your entrepreneurial journey and make even more impactful decisions for your business. For more insights, lessons and advice for new entrepreneurs, grab my ebook, The Modern Entrepreneur: How to Build a Successful Startup, from Beginning to End.