Critical Thinking Skills – Important, Potentially Life Changing

Critical thinking skills can make or break your career. It is an essential skill for anyone performing analysis, rising managers and organization leaders.

Being quick to judgment or being judged quickly affects people’s lives and is not necessary seen as a sign of good leadership. The quality of the decision outweighs the speed of decision-making. One has to wonder if that is what happened to Shirley Sherrod and the Agriculture Department’s decision to ask for her resignation.

One of the first steps to being an effective thinker is to recognize if biases or emotions play apart in the person making a decision.

At every stage of the critical thinking process, the integrity of the person making the decision and what tools or methodologies being used will affect the outcome.

Take a moment to think about two situations where you have made decisions – one where it was a good decision and another where you wished you had done something differently.

Use these situations to analyze what where your critical thinking skill might have been faulty. When you become a critic of your thinking, you will become a better thinker.

Situation Assessment- How well do you perform a situational analysis?

  • Have you defined the problem accurately or are you trying to solve the symptom?
  • Are you raising additional questions to be answered or simply focusing on the problem?
  • How many sources are you using to get information?
  • Is your information checked for accuracy and completeness with independent sources?
  • Are documents read carefully to find out intent?
  • Have you uncovered what is not obvious?
  • Do you gather all the relevant information and facts before rushing to judgment?

Problem Solving – Are you an exceptional problem solver?

  • Do you have hard data?
  • Are you relying on one problem solving method?
  • Have you defined the criteria or standard to test your theories?
  • Are you drawing upon personal experiences? Are those experiences broad and deep?
  • Has there been time to reflect and find new insights?
  • Is inductive or deductive logic and reasoning being used?
  • Is the problem being solved in a vacuum?
  • Do others opinions influence the outcome unduly?
  • Have you interpreted the information correctly?
  • Is your conclusion justifiable?
  • Have you debated the problem with anyone?
  • Are you testing a conclusion or drawing one?
  • Are you using a quality process that improves the way you reason?

Analyzing, reasoning and communicating effectively will improve your decision. Collaborating with others to think critically will enable you to tackle situations with confidence and fairness. Learn where you make missteps – it will help in making your next big decision.

Author: Lynn Dessert

Lynn Dessert is a certified ICF and NLP Coach specializing in Executive Career coaching in Charlotte NC. She works with individuals to accelerate their career advancement and organizations to fast track leadership skill development. Her career eBooks What To Do After Being Fired and The Secrets to Successful Job On-Boarding give you a roadmap to DIY. Start your discovery process by contacting her at 704.412.2852 today.

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  1. Your list of Problem Solving and Situation Assessment are very thorough. My only addition to your lists would be the role of “Probability” in decision making — What is the Gamble component of your decision? Example: BP took a gamble when they ignored the potential damage to the BOP (Blow Out Protector) — Yes, we see the chunks of rubber in the drilling fluid, “but it’s “probably” not a problem, so we don’t have to do anything about it”. Probability sometimes catches up with you if you gamble long enough. Some of our most disastrous critical decisions were based on probability.

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  2. Very good article Lynn and all points with which I agree for the mostpart. I might add however a simple tip I found very useful over the years as a executive, and later CEO and president, in several companies. I would first say that early in my career I received recognition as a leader and a sound decsion maker. Of course that kind of praise, though appreciated, leads often to one getting an inflated self image. Sooner or later that ego leads to ruin of some sort and it did for me! In my case I was lucky to have made a decision (quick as you noted) that was not career ending for me or others, but it could have been. Without getting into details, suffice to say that after my foul up, and to try to assure I didn’t screw up again, I got an idea (I don’t recall from where) that I should make myself up a sort of “cheat sheet” for decision making. One applicable to all such circumstances where any real thought was required before a decision was made. Basically I listed the steps I felt were necessary (many which you note) to best assure I made good decisions, or at least ones I could commit to and defend. Simple and obvious maybe, but I have rarely found anyone in business who does the same. Thought this might be a helpful tip for you and your readers.

    Regards, Bruce

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  3. Bruce, your lesson is one that many fast track people face – it appears yours was a wake up call that did not hurt anyone significantly. An area I tried to stress was communication with others during the process. Sometimes we think that we know best and have all under control and no one else can help us. I have found this trait to be present in executives I work with who have not experienced failure or being wrong, therefore do not involve their staffs. One day their luck will run out.

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