The strength of your decision-making skills has a direct bearing on your success, whether you’re managing a team of clinical application specialists or considering your next pharmaceutical sales career move.
Decision-making can be fraught with peril, and people react to decision-making pressure in wildly different ways - some fear the worst so remain paralysed by indecision, while others are breezily overconfident and underestimate negative consequences.
Luckily, you can dramatically improve your decision-making skills by following some solid strategies.
1. Map out the possibilities.
Whether you’re in pharmaceutical sales and considering new opportunities or deciding whether to fire that under-performing application specialist, mapping things out helps to highlight the best course of action.
Get a piece of paper and a pen and list all the possible solutions and potential obstacles and consequences. Then rank them in order based on the pros and cons of each alternative. When you have a clear course of action, decide resolutely upon it, then communicate it and implement it as simply and cleanly as possible.
This process allows you to see starkly before you choose which option is the best rational choice and reduces the effect of bias on your decision-making.
2. Question everything you think you know.
Overconfidence is dangerous. Yet we approach almost everything we do with a certain level of confidence in our existing knowledge. The problem is, that confidence isn’t always justified.
Drill down to the basics and assess whether the information you are basing your decision on is truly sound.
You may have heard that medical representatives at a competing company receive a higher rate of commission. But are you sure? Where did you hear this? Is it always the case, or was that an exceptional high performer who negotiated that rate?
And why is the manager so sure that three months is a sufficient time period for the new employee to have proved themselves?
Here’s where an impartial person well acquainted with the industry might be able to cast some light. In the cases we’ve described, a medical rep should reach out to a life science recruiter
with experience in pharma sales to find out about commission rates, and the manager should call an HR specialist or a more senior clinical application specialist to ask how long
it normally takes for a application specialist to become proficient.
If you doubt your preconceptions, do your research thoroughly, and rely on the expertise of others, and you’ll make fewer mistakes.
3. Be very wary of your bias (and that of those around you.)
All too often we find ourselves favouring one decision over another, not because it is the better decision, but because it is the one we want to take, deep down. We habitually overestimate the positives and underestimate the negatives,
so that we come up with the result that we really want.
In this way, we justify firing the application specialist because they made a mistake, but it’s because we don’t like them personally, or we move to that new sales job to improve our career, but in truth, it might be because we are struggling in our current role.
Our cognitive bias is extraordinarily strong, so it’s important to map out all the pros and cons on paper and rate them logically, as well as getting advice from other impartial people.
This doesn’t just apply to your decision-making - it’s all too common for teams to get excited about the course of action they’ve come up with, over another perhaps better option. And when you ask people for advice, remember that they’re coming at the issue with their own set of biases. So be alert for signs of bias in your team too.
Some team training on identifying biases can be extremely helpful.
4. Identify your risks and worst-case scenarios.
For the manager considering the application specialist’s dismissal, this might be if the application specialist makes a complaint about you. Have you followed due process and consulted HR?
For the medical rep considering the move to a new company, your worst-case scenario might be having to accept a lower base salary or commission rate at the new role or being given a less profitable territory than you currently have.
All decisions come at a cost. Your job is to predict what the costs may be to the best of your ability, and then make peace with that cost.
5. Audit your past decision-making.
It is quite unpleasant to look back on times we’ve messed up, which leads many of us to try to never think about it again!
Sit down and look back at times when you’ve made the wrong decision. What did you learn? More importantly, what was your process when you were making the decision? Did you rush it? Were you an emotional decision-maker in that moment? Did you assume the best and forget to plan for the worst?
Does that time feel a bit like this time? What can you do to avoid making another mistake?
6. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in decision.
Sometimes we get paralysed in the face of a decision. But remember, not doing anything at all is a decision too - it’s just a very poor one.
There are three very common causes of paralysis in decision making:
1. Fear of making the wrong choice.
2. A bad decision in the past is affecting your confidence.
3. Feeling like you don’t have enough information to make an informed choice.
Looking at those three causes of inaction, you must realise three things in return:
1. Fear isn’t a good enough reason to avoid acting. Inaction is still a choice.
2. Everyone’s made mistakes before. Successful people know to learn from them.
3. You can always find out more information. But don’t fall into the trap of needing to be an absolute expert on everything that comes across your desk before making your decision - this will paralyse you. It can take years to amass true expertise, and it is wildly unrealistic to expect this standard for every decision you make. Learn to recognise when you have enough information to make a measured decision.
7. Frame all decisions in light of your big goals.
Does this decision move you closer to your team or individual goal? Is it a building block or is it a distraction?
8. Improve your emotional self-awareness.
Notice when your emotions are getting the upper hand, like when your stress response is triggered, or when you find yourself irritated, unhappy or overwhelmed.
As you become more adept at noticing your emotions, you’re able to control them better, rather than blindly reacting.
About Kinetic Kinetic
pride ourselves on being the leading regional experts in the full range of recruitment solutions for the Pharmaceutical and Medical Devices industries.
Kinetic understands the niche requirements for all specialisms of this ever-increasing regulated industry.
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