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.