The Ten Commandments of Good Decision Making

By Marisa Smith on September 24, 2018

In Chapter 6 of Traction, Gino Wickman shares ten “commandments” of a team that’s great at solving issues. Because solving an issue often requires one or more decisions to be made, they are also referred to as the Ten Commandments of Good Decision Making in the eBook, Decide! If you or your team are stuck and making little or no progress when solving issues, it’s time to assess whether you’re following these commandments.

1. Thou Shalt Not Rule by Consensus

On a healthy team, where the vision is clear and everyone is on the same page, eight out of ten times, everyone will agree with the solution to a problem. However, sometimes they won't, and someone needs to make the final decision. That someone is the leader.

Consensus management doesn't work, period. Eventually, group consensus decisions will put you out of business. When the leader makes the final decision in these situations, not everyone will be pleased, but as long as their voices have been heard and if the team is healthy, they can usually live with it and support the decision. From there, you must always present a united front moving forward.

2. Thou Shalt Not Be a Weenie

The solution is often simple; it's just not always easy to implement. You must have a strong will, firm resolve, and the willingness to make the tough decision.

3. Thou Shalt Be Decisive

In the classic book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill cited a study that analyzed 25,000 people who had experienced failure. Lack of decision, or procrastination, was one of the major causes. In contrast, analysis of several hundred millionaires revealed that every one of them had the habit of reaching decisions promptly and changing them slowly. It's less important what you decide than it is that you decide ... so, decide!

4. Thou Shalt Not Rely on Secondhand Information

You can't solve an issue involving multiple people without all the parties present. If the issue at hand involves more than the people in the room, schedule a time when everyone can attend. One client calls these "pow-wows." When someone brings him an issue involving others or secondhand information, he says, "Time for a pow-wow" and pulls everyone involved together and solves it.

5. Thou Shalt Fight for the Greater Good


Put your egos, titles, emotions, and past beliefs aside. Focus on the vision for your organisation. You'll cut through the candy-coating, personalities, and politics. If you stay focused on the greater good, it will lead you to better and faster decisions.

6. Thou Shalt Not Try to Solve Them All

Take issues one at a time, in order of priority. What counts isn't quantity but quality. You're never going to solve all at one time. The faster you understand that, the better your odds are of staying sane. Solve the most important one first, then move on to the next. You'll also find that when you do this, some of the other issues on the list will drop off because they were symptoms of the real is sue that you solved.

7. Thou Shalt Live with It, End It, or Change It

This is a great lesson from Gino’s dad, who is a very successful entrepreneur and one of his greatest mentors. In solving an issue, he teaches that you have three options: You can live with it, end it, or change it. There are no other choices. With this understanding, you must decide which of the three it's going to be. If you can no longer live with the issue, you have two options: change it or end it. If you don't have the wherewithal to do those, then agree to live with it and stop complaining. Living with it should, however, be the last resort.

8. Thou Shalt Choose Short-Term Pain and Suffering

Both long-term and short-term pain involve suffering. A great rule of thumb that makes this point is called "thirty-six hours of pain." If you're wrestling with a tough decision, whether it involves strategy, customers, or people, and you're procrastinating because of the prospect of it being painful, hopefully this will give you some motivation. Solve your problem now rather than later. The fear of doing it is worse than actually doing it. Choose short-term suffering.

9. Thou Shalt Enter the Danger

The issue you fear the most is the one you most need to discuss and resolve. In tough times, people tend to freeze. When you're afraid, your brain actually works against you. Research now shows us that when we are fearful, we use the back part of our brain, the amygdala. That's our primal brain, developed 10,000 years ago to protect us from predators. It's our fight-or-flight response, which doesn't serve us well when solving business problems.

You must shift to the prefrontal part of the brain, the rational and critical thinking part. That will serve you well in the decision-making situations. The way to do this is to simply list all of the things that are worrying you: all of the problems, concerns, and fears. You can do this as an individual during your Clarity Break or as leadership in one of your meetings. Being open and honest will enable you to confront and solve your critical issues and get moving forward again.

10. Thou Shalt Take a Shot

Taking a shot means that you should propose a solution. Don't wait around for someone else to solve it. If you're wrong, your team will let you know. Sometimes a leadership discussion can drag on because everyone is afraid to voice a solution, even though someone may have it right at the tip of his or her tongue. Often, a team will discuss an issue for far too long. They’ll be stuck and no one will be offering solutions, when suddenly the quietest person in the room might speak up and suggest an answer. After a few moments of silence, someone says, "That's a good idea," and everyone agrees. Don't be afraid to take a shot. Yours might be the good idea.

Next Steps

  • A strong and healthy company is achievable company is achievable. Measure your progress with our Organisational Checkup.
  • To learn more about how to make better and faster decisions, download the free eBook, Decide!