Leaders: Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Decision Making


Sometimes we need a “guide” to help us discern the proper action for a given situation.

Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Success

Ten Steps to Making Good Moral Decisions

Use these steps as your guide for examining all the possible options in a situation.

Go through each step in order, and make sure you do this process on paper. Writing your answers can be very helpful when you’re in an emotional state about a particular decision.

The writing process directs your emotions through the pen onto the paper, not at another human being!

Step 1

Identify exactly what the problem is

  • Where’s the dilemma?
  • Where does it stem from?
  • Who is involved in it?

Write down everything that’s part of the problem.

Step 2

Identify the goal

  • What’s your aim in solving this problem?
  • What do you want to happen?
  • Is your goal total customer satisfaction?
  • Peace in the workplace?
  • Your kids’ happiness and success?

Whatever it is, write the goal.

According to Dr. Charles Garfield, a goal, i.e. objective, is a dream with a deadline. Without a deadline you have a wish and who’s got time for wishes???

Step 3

Brainstorm as many alternative solutions as you can

“Don’t think logically, and don’t let practicality get in your way.

List as many solutions for this situation as you possibly can.

You can always get rid of impractical ideas later. But unless you have a wide variety of alternative solutions to examine, you can’t really get clear on exactly where you want to go.

Step 4

List the facts—what you know, and what you don’t know

“What do you know about this situation?”

Equally important, write down anything you don’t know and need to find out before you can make a decision.

This may entail asking other people, other companies, other entities for their input, so you can have all the information you need to make the best possible choice.

It’s been my experience that 9 times out of 10, what you didn’t know was crucial to making a better decision! Take the time to find out as much as you can about what you don’t know and you’ll be better off.

Step 5

Identify the people who will be affected by this decision and the principles involved

  • Who in your company will be affected by this decision?
  • Which of your customers?
  • Who in your family and/or your community?

List every person and entity affected. Then make a second list of the principles involved in the decision.

  • On what basis is this decision being made?
  • Is it the company’s mission statement?
  • The values statement?
  • Your personal code of ethics?
  • Customer satisfaction?
  • The bottom-line?
  • What are the key values and principles involved in making this decision?

Step 6

Lists the pros and cons of each solution option

For each solution, write down the risks inherent in using this particular option.

“What are the possible costs to you, your co-workers, your company?

Next to the risks, list the benefits for each solution as well. Be thorough; make sure you list as many risks and benefits as you can for each possible solution.

Step 7

List the importance of each solution and the likelihood it will happen

  • How important to you, your company, or your community, is the choice that will be made?
  • And looking at each alternative solution, what are the chances that it will come to pass?
  • What is the chance you will lose the customer?
  • What is the chance this solution will cause your company to downsize and people will lose their jobs as a result?
  • What is the chance the market will shift?

“Weigh each solution carefully.

  • What’s the importance of the choice, and what are the chances it will happen?

Step 8

List your reasons for choosing each solution

From your perspective as CEO, sales manager, head of sales, parent, friend—whatever the case might be—what would be your reasons for choosing this particular option?

List your motives for each solution you’ve created.

Step 9

List your priorities and preferences

  • If you had your way, how would you like this whole thing to work out?
  • What’s your priority when it comes to this decision?

Step 10

Now, looking at your answers to #1–9, make the decision

Keeping everything you’ve written in mind, make the decision that seems to suit the needs of the situation.

Give it your very best shot—after all, our best is the best we can do.

Following these ten steps helps us to use reason more than emotion when it comes to the tough moments in our lives. The chances of making a better decision after some clear discernment are much, much higher and always more effective.


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Frank Bucaro 
is President at Frank C. Bucaro and Associates, Inc.
He is leading the crusade for ethics in business and leadership
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Image Sources: farm1.static.flickr.com

10 responses to “Leaders: Your 10-Step Guide to Moral Decision Making

  1. Great points. I really liked point number 3. The key is to spend time to think about the best outcome.


  2. Tom, all really helpful…steps we often use in our peer CEO groups. In decision making I often see that the failure in an organization is when a group is involved and they have not established a clear goal. It’s essential…otherwise individuals may have compelling reasons for a particular decision however it’s not in context to an agreed upon goal. #leader2day


  3. This is a good quick reminder to take your time before making a rash decision. Point #4 to list the facts especially what do you not know about the situation or possible solutions is something that not many of us do on a regular basis. Thanks for the reminder!


  4. Maybe it’s implied in the steps you listed, but I didn’t find the foundation upon which you developed a guide to moral success. Every moral decision or moral decision-making process must emerge from some kind of foundation of morality. The same guide presented here could have been used by Kenneth Lay and the same outcome, the demise of Enron, would still have occurred. It’s widely upheld that Mr. Lay’s thought processes were either immoral or amoral.

    I like guide and will use it, but with a moral foundation in mind.



    • Great points Frank! I use the Bible as my foundation for truth, wisdom, and guidance in areas of making decisions. I have found it to be reliable in every situation for me!


  5. It’s good to remind ourselves to stop and think things through. In the UK, the Institute of Business Ethics has just published a booklet on ethical decision-making with some useful examples of companies’ practices.


  6. Love the step by step method!!

    I’d change # ! to what is the Challenge!!

    No place for problems in business.



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