Our Decisions Shape Us

Decisions are central to everything we do. We make countless decisions in and out of consciousness every single day.

And yet, how do we make decisions?


How do we distinguish between decisions that will echo for years and those that will fade away tomorrow?

Outside of my work, I rarely see people think about how to think about a decision and build the necessary “scaffolding”. Even when they do, it is very often a highly linear logic-driven process designed to resolve a specific issue. GOFER is an example:

  • G for clarifying goals
  • O for generating options
  • F for finding facts
  • E for considering effects
  • R for reviewing and making a plan

It is uncannily similar to coaching models such as GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Wrap-up or Way forward) and may work reasonably well for less complex one-off issues with a low number of variables.

However, such models assume that we know what needs to be decided, have access to the necessary information and that now is the right time for a decision. All these are assumptions.

Within organisations, decision-making is in practice much more fluid. Decisions are not only shaped by previous decisions (e.g., policies, practices, hiring decisions), can involve a range of stakeholders but are also potentially skewed by misplaced incentives and power dynamics.

Stepping into Decision Coaching

Coaching around decision-making (aka decision coaching) is at the heart of self-leadership and leadership. To work on our own self-leadership and leadership skills, we need to firstly become aware of the decisions we are making, how we are making them and what other options are available to us.

There is thus a major training component that over time becomes second-nature as we instinctively think differently about decisions. The ultimate purpose of decision coaching is truly to turn the client into their own decision coach. We all benefit from an outside eye on more complex decisions, but as own decision coach we can make increasingly more insightful and impactful decisions on our own.

Creating a Different Thinking Environment

When thinking about decisions it is thus important to recognise that:

decisions aren’t made in a vacuum.

Ambiguity is everywhere: In organisations, clear answers are rare. Instead of black and white, we often deal in shades of grey, navigating uncertain information and unclear preferences. Decision coaching helps clients focus on the essential and find some clarity amidst this fog.

Decisions echo over time: Unlike snap judgments, organisational decisions create lasting ripples. Decision coaching ensures you are not just reacting to today but also thinking in different timeframes.

Incentives shape choices: Rewards and penalties aren’t just abstract concepts; they are real motivators that can skew or guide our decisions. Decision coaching helps unpack these motivators, ensuring choices are taken for reasons that align with organisational goals and visions and are not just reactions to immediate incentives.

Patterns can trap us: It is easy to fall into the comfort of repeated decisions, but this can create blind spots. Decision coaching encourages fresh perspectives, breaking cycles of ‘that is how it’s always been done’.

We fall in love with solutions: Rather than clearly define the problem and drill down until we have fully understood every aspect, we often default to thinking in terms of solutions. This means we develop elegant solutions designed to solve poorly understood problems, hence the expression “a solution in search of a problem“. Decision coaching is about keeping focus on the problem.

Conflict is inevitable, but manageable: Power plays and differing agendas can steer decisions off-course. Decision coaching enables us to focus on the bigger picture, not the loudest voices.

By illuminating these challenges, decision coaching empowers more informed, balanced and impactful choices.

Decision Clinic: What Issues Are on Your Mind?

Are you grappling with a particular decision? Feel stuck?

Not sure where to turn?

Why not book a call?

I offer a number of free decision coaching slots every week so book one now!

Our conversation will allow you to unlock insights as to what is truly important and move you towards a smarter decision.

Rest assured, our conversation will remain completely confidential, providing a safe space for you to say what needs to be said.

Do not remain stuck. Book a call and get clarity on what truly matters!

Questions in the Image:

  • Decision coaching: how do I decide?
  • What is the most important decision I made today?
  • What does the decision say about me?
  • What influenced the decision?

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. The more we question the more we see what may have been missing from our decision-making. The decisions we ask shape the decisions we make. There can be a tendency to be decisive and make decisions now rather than think them through. No one approach is best but they will likely result in different outcomes. How do you make decisions?

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share? My name is Tom O’Leary, and I envision a world in which curiosity shapes leadership. In this world, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning. My mission is to shift leadership focus from authority, over-measurement and control to curiosity, learning and innovation, empowering leaders to prioritise the essential. My journey, lived in a number of countries and through various languages, has always been driven by a profound sense of curiosity. In fact, life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential. I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.