​The First Thing You Should Do Before Making a Tough Decision

December 24, 2015, 6:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of scouthebinck

The Entrepreneur Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “When making a tough business decision, how do you know when to trust your gut?” is written by Denise Terry, CEO of EmbraceFamily Health.

As a founder and CEO of an earlystage technology startup, I’m faced with tough business decisions nearly every week, ranging from who to hire, how to acquire the next customers, whether to make a long-term alliance with a partner, and how to bring on the right investors for the company. Being at an earlystage startup can feel like a constant rollercoaster ride of ups, downs, and life-threatening company decisions all the time. The pressure to perform with few resources, both capital and human, is phenomenally stressful and can make tough business decisions feel all the more “weighty” than in corporate environments. Having worked in both startup companies and large corporate environments during my career, I’ve had the luxury of taking the time to make slow big decisions as well as fast big decisions, and therefore have evolved my own equation for when to trust my gut.

Mindful decision-making

Having access to full data regarding the decision is necessary, since business decisions should not be determined by whim, emotions, or the prevailing consensus. After I’ve analyzed all of the available data in contextincluding asking for input from colleagues and stakeholdersI take a deliberate pause before making a big decision. I call it “the mindful approach to decision-making,” which includes grounding techniques like meditation, exercise breaks, relaxing walks, or quite literally “sleeping on it.” When I re-assess the decision with a clear mind and a grounded perspective (neither hurried to make a decision nor emotionally influenced by others’ opinions), I go with my gut and trust myself.

See also: Why You Should Never Trust Your Gut

Trusting your advisors’ guts

The best leaders don’t operate in vacuums or improve their abilities without the help of trusted mentors and advisors. My own advisory board has been instrumental in helping me guide the company and make the best decisions regarding fundraising, partnerships, recruiting, and more. I call on at least one of them weekly for guidance and do an external gut check. Not only does speaking with an expert source help to bring perspective to the decision in question, but when your gut feeling aligns with someone else’s, it provides affirmation that the decision is the best one to make.

Know yourself and trust yourself

Ultimately, being an effective executive or leader necessitates making tough decisions and owning them. The saying “the buck stops here” is never truer than for CEOs of companies—both small and large. It helps to have self-awareness about your own strengths and weaknesses and the humility to seek input or expert advice when it’s not at hand. Making good decisions arises from trusting yourself to do the best you can.

Denise Terry is CEO of EmbraceFamily Health, a digital maternal-child health company helping parents have healthier pregnancies, babies and children through mobile technology and telemedicine.

Read all responses to the Entrepreneur Insider question: When making a tough business decision, how do you know when to trust your gut?

The Hardest Part of Being an Entrepreneur by Francesca Federico, cofounder and principal of Twelve Points.

Here’s Why Good Resumes Won’t Signal Promising Team Members by Randy Rayess, cofounder of VenturePact.

This is How Long it Should Take to Make a Decision by Tim Flannery, a venture partner at Pilot Mountain Ventures.

Why You Shouldn’t Think Twice About Firing an Employee by William Vanderbloemen, founder and CEO of Vanderbloemen Search Group.

This is How the Most Successful Leaders Make Tough Decisions by Simon Berg, CEO of Ceros.

The Best Way to Make Fast Decisions by Vijay Ramani, cofounder and CEO of Totspot.

What Every Leader Can Learn From Alfred P. Sloan About Tough Decisions by Frank Fabela, Vistage CEO peer advisory board chair.

Proof Data Can’t Always Help You Make Decisions by Morgan Hermand-Waiche, founder and CEO of Adore Me.

Doing This Will Help You Make Tough Decisions by Suneera Madhani, founder and CEO of Fattmerchant.

Here’s What Happens When You Don’t Trust Your Gut by Gesche Haas, founder of Dreamers//Doers.

Here’s What You Should Do When You Have to Make a Tough Decision by Alexander Goldstein, founder and CEO of Eligo Energy.

Never Make a Big Decision Without Doing This First by Feris Rifai, cofounder and CEO of Bay Dynamics.

Here’s How Questioning Decisions Can Ruin a Business by Pat Peterson, founder and CEO of Agari.

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