Decision Making Tools I Learned from Umpire School

Decision making tools or processes don’t seem to get taught very much. But knowing how to make good decisions is so critical to every aspect of our lives. Here are five decision making tools I learned from professional umpire school 40 years ago. I’ve applied these five lessons of decision-making to virtually every decision I’ve made since to get better results. Maybe this process will be helpful to you as well! (Prefer to watch the video? Click here.)

Decision Making Tools from Umpire School

Do you like antiques? No, I’m not talking about me! Look at this. I was digging around through a drawer recently, and I came across this tee shirt, and this tee shirt is definitely an antique! In fact, I received this tee shirt 40 years ago this week when I enrolled in Harry Wendelstedt’s Professional Baseball Umpiring School, Daytona Beach, Florida.

decision making tools

Let me tell you a quick story. It was just a few days after I graduated from Murray State University with a degree is business, but I had this burning desire. I wanted to see if I could be a professional baseball umpire, and thus, my first big adventure began. I headed for Daytona Beach, and I found myself there with 107 other prospective students who apparently wanted the same thing that I did, to become a professional baseball umpire and maybe even a major league umpire. Now, I didn’t make it to the major leagues. In fact, I turned down an opportunity to go into the minor leagues, but that’s not the real story.

You see, 40 years ago, I went with a dream to be a professional baseball umpire. What I didn’t realize was that during that umpiring school, I would learn a decision-making model that I’ve used ever since. I want to tell you five decision making tools that I learned at Wendelstedt’s Umpiring School that was supposed to be applied to baseball umpiring that frankly have been applied in almost every area of my life since. The five decision making tools are these.

Decision Making Tool #1. Have the Tools

Number one, any time you have to make a decision, you have to have the tools. Every job requires a certain set of tools to be successful. Decision-making is the same. Facts are tools; we have to explore the facts so that we can have the tool to make the decision.

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Decision Making Tool #2. Know the Rules

The second thing is you have to know the rules. There’s rules in any decisions that need to be made. We need to know how far we can go and how far we shouldn’t go. We need to know the rules by which we will be judged before we make the decision.

Decision Making Tool #3. Position Yourself Effectively

The third thing that I learned at Wendelstedt’s school was beside having the tools and knowing the rules, you had to position yourself effectively to make the call. You had to be in a position to be successful, to be able to see it, to be able to understand it, and ultimately to be able to decide, but you had to be in position before things started happening, not during or after they started to happen.

Decision Making Tool #4. Master Your Timing

Then the fourth thing that you needed to do to make a good decision on a baseball field, but also in an office or in your life, was you need to master your timing. You never want to make a decision too quick before things are finished happening. You never want to make a decision by taking too long, long after things have happened, while people are waiting to see what your decision is.

Decision Making Tool #5. Make the Call

You have to have the tools, you must know the rules, you need to position yourself effectively, you master your timing. And then when you get all four of those things together, they told us you have to make the call. You have to make the call and sell the call. You have to stand on the decision you make.

All of us who are leaders or who aspire to be are in fact decision-makers and will be called to make decisions, some of which will be received gladly, some not so much. And when you have to make a call, if you’ve done the other four things appropriately and you know your decision is the best decision you can make, then stand on that call. Stand on that call, commit to that call, sell that call in such a way that others will understand the value that you placed in that decision. Some, probably not all, but many may come over to your way of thinking.

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Decision Making Tools to Make Life Easier

Yeah, 40 years ago, I was just a kid. 40 years ago, I was embarking upon a new career. I had little idea that I’d be able to take those five lessons of decision-making and apply them to virtually every decision that I’ve made since. I don’t remember all that I learned when I was in college, and I don’t remember all that I learned when I was pursuing my masters degree, but I remember the decision-making model that I learned 40 years ago this month.

For all those instructors and teachers and friends and umpires that I met at Wendelstedt’s Umpire School, thank you guys! You’ve made my life a whole lot easier because you taught me how to make a decision.

Now, maybe these decision making tools will help you as well!

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Phillip Van Hooser
Author: Phillip Van Hooser
Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by building engaged employee relationships. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on leadership, service and communication. His popular book, “Willie's Way: 6 Secrets for Wooing, Wowing and Winning Customers and Their Loyalty” recently hit #1 in Customer Relations on the Kindle store. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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