Q. I’ve made some bad career decisions over the past 10 years that I’m paying the price for now. I’ve never had formal training around decision making and evaluating risk. How can I make good career and professional decisions?

A. Many of us in professional life today haven’t received any formal training on effective decision making. Throughout my 18-year corporate career and during my nine years as a career and executive coach, I’ve learned that there are eight basic steps to strong and effective decision making.

  1. Identify the purpose of the decision

First, you must identify the exact problem you’re facing, understand why it needs to be addressed now, and articulate the outcome you’re striving for. Unless you understand the purpose of the decision and why it needs to be made now, you will fail to achieve what you need.

  1. Gather information

Next, you need to gather as much information as you can about all factors involved in the problem. It’s important to uncover potential biases that may cloud your judgment, as well as any limiting factors — where what you have to deal with is less than ideal.

  1. Identify the standards you want to apply

The next step involves identifying all the core principles – values, standards, goals, intentions, needs – that must be considered in evaluating your alternatives. Think about what matters most to you in life and work (and to your organization), and make sure that these values and standards are being reflected in your decision-making process.