How to Push Past Fairy Tale Decisions
Remember the last time you sat around a table making a big decision? Did you walk away breathing a sigh of relief. Relief indicates you were in the land of fairy dust and unicorns.
Decisions are dangerous because they give the illusion of action where there is none.
The bigger the decision the grander the potential illusion.
6 Components of a decision
- Decisions provide clarity. The feeling of vitality surrounding a decision is the result of clarity. Good decisions point the way and energize participants.
- Decisions define achievement.
- Decisions create responsibility. Decisions without champions are fantasies without legs. If you’re breathing a sigh of relief after making a decision, you’ve missed the point.
- Decisions show both the goal and the next few steps. Midrange and end step become clear later. Provide room to adapt as you go.
- Decisions have deadlines. Decisions without deadlines are comfort for sluggards.
- Decisions are communicated and reported. If no one needs to know, you just wasted your time.
5 Ways to lighten up:
- Complex situations have more than one solution. Answers aren’t moral imperatives. Make the best decision with the information available.
- Choose paths that best align with your strengths. Good decisions inspire confidence not insecurity.
- Trust your ability to adapt. Turbulent situations require agility.
- The need to be perfectly right at the beginning guarantees you’ll be wrong at the end.
- Own it, learn, and move on when you’re wrong.
How to go with your gut:
I was surprised that hard hitting Jack Welch espouses going with your gut. He said whenever he went against his gut, he ended up wrong. Go with your gut when:
- You have experience.
- You’ve gathered information.
- It warns you.
- There are several options and one feels right.
New Years is decision making time. How can leaders make good decisions that result in action?
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Always in favor of trusting my gut. When I take that moment to check in with what feels right, it often guides me into something I couldn’t have imagined for myself. Thanks for the insight.
LOve the idea that going with intuition also creates challenge.
I think the dangerous side to gut-decisions is they don’t challenge. Additionally, an uninformed gut-decision is a shot in the dark or a wild guess, at best.
Thanks for joining in,
What I have found to be true is that the mind can manage the facts and ‘inform.’ However, it is the heart that provides the guidance. We can review the facts all day long and still not come to a clear decision. And yet, what you say is true as well – if ‘gut’ is merely instinctual and at times driven by fear.
Yet, I feel certain that when gut = Divine guidance we can’t go wrong. When we are in alignment with the voice of something greater than we….the results of our path are part of our personal growth and life experience. The mind is a powerful force, but can only take us so far.
Loving this conversation..and I so appreciate the tips I’m reading from you.
I’ve been thinking of going with your gut all day.
I think the brain is best for formulating options. Then go with intuition.
Right now, I’m not convinced intuition is best for creating options…
Just thinking out loud.
Slight modification of the old adage….Trust gut-but verify.
“Complex situations have more than one solution.” That’s a fantastic, true statement. Often, the multitude of choices paralyze us, when what we need to do is simply choose a path and rally around it.
Paralysis has been my issue in the past. It caused so much wasted time.
One way that helped me push through paralysis is push for a decision. Ask the team if they need more info. If not, the decide.
Ask, is there anything else and then call for a decision.
Good post, Dan. Regarding, gut driven decisions, they can and should always be informed by as much information as available. Analytics are a way to inform a leader’s intuition and should be an additional data point that supports decision making.
Excellent points, Dan. One can really have a sense of relief when a big decision is made. It can lead to disappointment when there is inadequate follow through…..
Such a small expression, follow through. It says it all.
You made me think about how important a person who holds us accountable can be. If you have problem with follow through, find a partner who can ask the hard questions.
Thanks for adding value,
Good points. I would be interesting to analyse where the border between “heuristics” and gut driven ones is.
Great question Luca. I wonder if research has been done. I tend to think of gut driven decisions as those based on experience and self-knowledge. The more experience and self-reflection the more comfortable I get with it. Best, Dan
Just getting leaders to make a DECISION is gut wrenching enough.
Glad your back, Dan
Good to be back. Love your pointed humor.
I think I need to write a post about cowardly leaders so we canhave a discussion.
Cowardly leaders, love the concept. Just think of ALL the examples.
Some very good points, I wish more people would act on a decision instead of evaluating every possible outcome. I have found that those that have the authority to make a decision, will not, in fear of making the wrong decision. Which then leads to weeks or months of evaluation and research that ultimately leads to the decision that was originally proposed. In an atmosphere of constant ‘CYA’, productivity seems to go at a snails pace.
One comment to add – decisions should be made in context of the values one holds. The old saying, “decisions are made easy when you know what you stand for” comes to mind. If a decision is going against your or your organization’s values, what you hold dear, then it is most likely the wrong decision.
I wholeheartedly agree that one can reserve the right to change their mind later. I think it is John Maxwell who says that one of the most important traits of leaders is their ability to be decisive, which means the ability to make a decision and to make that decision in a timely manner. They always can change their mind later, however, he points out that most leaders don’t change their mind very often.
I think one of the keys is to accept that some of the best decisions do NOT have immediate “positive” payoffs. My child happened to have a pediatrician appointment the first week that the doc’s office was switching from paper records to electronic. The nurse had to take a lot more time than usual to enter everything in to the electronic record (and the office had kept kids on the “typical” schedule, which did not allow time for data entry). I am sure that was a hassle, painful and a true challenge to the change-resistant but now when my child needs to see a medical professional in that same network, the ability to view all of their records is not reliant upon the paper records being present. I am sure there are many other benefits as well.
I suppose this comment ended up being less about “resulting in action” and more about “change management” but it comes back to good decisions not always having an immediate “positive” impact.
Dan, I think you can read my mind! I am going to be faced with some very big decisions in the next few months and there are days when the thought is too overwhelming to even let it cross my mind. I’m storing this post away for future reference!
Love the blog. I’m a math teacher who likes to incorporate decision-making into my class as part of authentic activities. Is there a body of broad-based problem situations that might be good fodder for classroom collaborative activities? I’m not worried about the level because I believe I can adapt the content to my students’ level.
Sadly, there are no lesson plans or curricula that I can find that incorporate my content (algebra, data analysis, geometry, and number theory) into a real-life decision context. There ought to be.
A lot of kids fall for this particular trap — “deciding” to do better at school by proposing changes in behavior and then backsliding when teachers and parents try to help them live up to the promises they’ve made themselves.
M thought is that decision-making is like other skills: the more you actually do it the better you’ll be at it.
Too often leaders equate being a ‘decider’ with instant action (“make it so #1”) or with expectation of action sans regard for sequence, pathways and potential barriers. Leaders don’t know what they don’t know. Going with the gut is fine if it is a solo operation, however with a team, one can benefit from other perspectives…unless safety/security is an imminent issue. The adage of everyone has a voice, not everyone has a vote might have value within the decision making process.
The “go-with-your-gut” idea reminds me immediately of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”. His assertion is that with enough experience and expertise, the gut-reaction is almost always right. If a decision comes down to a leader finalizing what comes to his gut after discourse with his team…I would venture a guess he (or she) will be right.
Big decisions are just that…big. The relief should come with the freedom in knowing that a decision is your attempt at the best solution. That’s all a decision really is. Life and leading are too fluid to be a one-time shot. When decisions need to be made, there needs to be belief in it enough to rally the energy to give it legs, but flexibility to recognize if you’ve chosen the wrong way.
Decisions are the feet moving pedals on a bike…moving forward depends upon putting choice into action… but then someone has to steer too! MMF
There have been times when going with my gut has led to bad decisions and inconsistency. You must make sure you align your decisions within the parameters of what is right for your organization or group. Short term goals must make sense in a grander sense. Sometimes making a short term advance can have repercussions in your long term plan. So not that going with your gut isn’t the right thing but think it out before you dive into the frigid waters.