Biz Extra

Published: February 3, 2021 | Updated: March 5, 2021

David McDonald on how joining forces with others boosts your decision-making power

By Andrew Diprose, editor

We all make bad decisions, writes David McDonald.

It’s human nature.

When choices are available, it’s easy to make the wrong decision.

And we can all carry those wrong decisions with us, making us reluctant to make them in the future.

Making decisions, as difficult as it may be, is also what drives us forward as leaders.

And there’s no need to make them alone.

Here’s how joining forces with others can help improve your decision making:

Depersonalise the decision. 

When trying to make a decision with the help of your colleagues, peers or even your board, there is a risk that the overall decision will succumb to social bias.

In fact, those who work for you day to day are more likely to accept your views, as they tend to be familiar with your overall views and perspectives.

“Social biases are sometimes interpreted as corporate politics but in fact are deep-rooted human tendencies.” (The case for behavioural strategy, McKinsey & Company)

This bias can be harmful when making decisions, especially when suggestions are made based on what someone thinks you’ll like, as opposed to what they think will work.

As noted, this goes beyond ‘office politics’ and is more rooted in learned behaviour.

It’s for this reason that leaders need to learn to depersonalise the decisions they make – in essence, remove the social bias.

To do this, find people that you trust and debate the decision and the thinking with them for a real opinion and suggestions.

“Left to their own devices, people will choose to collaborate with others they know well—which can be deadly for innovation.” (Are You a Collaborative Leader? HBR)

Rely on other people’s experience.

Relying purely on your own experience to make decisions will ultimately lead you to some unnecessary risk-taking and potentially bad choices.

This is through no fault of your own.

We can’t always apply past experiences to new challenges and get the same result.

“Genuine debate requires diversity in the backgrounds and personalities of the decision makers, a climate of trust, and a culture in which discussions are depersonalized.” (The case for behavioural strategy, McKinsey & Company)

By joining forces with other people in a similar, but not necessarily identical position to you, it’s possible to start relying on their experiences that have been built through making similar decisions within their businesses and industries.

So much of your experience is based on how you’ve risen to your current role.

Your background as a leader might be completely different to the person sitting across the table.

In the same way that you can rely on other people’s experience, you can also return the favour when others are facing a challenge that you’ve previously faced.

This symbiotic relationship allows everyone within a group to learn from each other and help each other make the tough decisions that you might otherwise struggle to make.


Collaboration may not be a skill in itself, but it’s instead a collection of skills that allow you to decide when to rely on others, help others and work with others to make tough decisions or work through a process.

“Research has consistently shown that diverse teams produce better results, provided they are well led. The ability to bring together people from different backgrounds, disciplines, cultures, and generations and leverage all they have to offer, therefore, is a must-have for leaders.” (Are You a Collaborative Leader?, HBR)

With the ability to collaborate with others in similar roles, and not only listen to and understand advice and guidance received but actually implement it, you can improve your overall decision making based on these joint experiences.