Decision-Making Mountain: The 4 Steps to Get to a Decision

Decision-Making Mountain: The 4 Steps to Get to a Decision

By Brenda Corbett, ‘Sherpa Guide’ author

In the Sherpa Coaching process, there are ten ways to take a client to the summit. Each of those paths in the coaching process includes coaching tools: assessments and exercises which help a leader create positive changes in business behavior.

Any manager or executive can make use of these tools to create ‘coaching moments’ and get much better performance from their team. Read about how an executive coach uses these tools and you’ll be set to do this when you need to. What you are about to read is a ‘how to’ manual for behavioral change.

Let’s look at a tool we call Decision-Making Mountain. Because this tool is a process, it takes a little longer to explain. Take the time and your client will thank you. Here’s how I explain it.


Step 1: Define the Essentials

This is where you must gather facts—research the need to make a decision and the urgency of the matter. This stops your client from making a decision too quickly. Coaching Message:  What decision needs to be made?  Is it yours to make?

Case Study – Larry

Larry is a superintendent of schools in the Chicago area.  He has trouble making decisions.  Larry’s “why it matters” is ‘to leave a thumbprint –a personal mark on everything I do’.

He comes to a coaching meeting:

Larry:   I have to add 100 parking spaces but I don’t know where to put them.

Coach:  Let’s review Decision- Making Mountain:  What is the decision really about, Larry?  Is anyone else involved?  What do you need to take into account before you make this decision?

Larry:  I will go back and figure that out.


Step 2:  Assess

This is where you examine the ramifications of making a decision. Involve others (if needed) and share their thinking, invite input, and then evaluate results.  Slow down, really assess the issues.

This brings the client immediately to the accountability house.  What is stopping you from being accountable (i.e. making this decision) – comfort zone, true outcome, fear, blame or your why it matters. Coaching Message: What is stopping you from making this decision?

Larry:  Well, I just don’t know what to do. There are so many people and so many issues around this parking lot. 

Coach:  What is stopping you from making this decision? 

Larry:    I need everyone to be happy.

Coach:  Larry, are they? 

Larry:    Well, I have talked to everyone and they want me to go with Lincoln School.

Coach: . . . and?

Larry:    I guess that is where it should go?

Coach:  . . . and?

Larry:    I will tell them tomorrow.


Step 3: Make the Decision

Prepare people for change. Try to anticipate the unexpected. Broadcast your successes and learn from your failures.  Coaching Message: Be in charge. Announce, then implement.

Coach: What happened?

Larry:   People are okay with the decision.

Coach: What did you learn?

Larry:  Well, after ‘defining the essentials’ and going through the ‘assessment’, I had very little trouble in actually making the decision. I just had to step out and do it but I knew I was doing the right thing.


Step 4:  Coaching Follow-Through

The most important step: a conscious dedication to the resolution of the issue in every facet. This means creating the desired effect, adding to the knowledge base, building loyalty, efficiency, and team cohesiveness. Coaching Message: The decision is made. What needs to happen now?

Coach: Now that you have made the decision, what else needs to be done?

Larry:   I have to make sure I set clear expectations for all the workers and staff.

Coach:  Excellent. Let’s discuss those expectations.


Decision-Making Mountain offers four steps to getting things done by reaching a decision:

  1. Define the essentials
  2. Assess
  3. Make the decision
  4. Coach it through


Decision-Making Mountain. Memorize the sequence. Use it. Teach it. Decision-Making Mountain can be your own personal summit.






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