On Apr 24, 2017
On the Nature of Decisions
Every one of us makes numerous decisions every day.
Many of our decisions are small, like - “What shirt should I wear today?” Some of our decisions are larger with more serious consequences, like – “How should I go about firing this employee?”
Some decisions trigger strong and challenging emotional responses, like – “Should I tell this person my true feelings?”
Other decisions involve trade-offs between goals, like – “Should I stick to my diet or eat that chocolate-dipped ice-cream cone?” 1 [Often these decisions pit short-term rewards against long-term rewards.]
Some decisions involve massive risks involving money, reputation, relationships, etc.
Decisions involve the study of past and present data and the forecasting of future outcomes.
This is just a sampling of the ways you can sort decisions before you make them. If you take the time, and it will be a surprisingly large amount of time, to analyze the decisions you make in a 24-hour day then you will discover the wide variety of decisions you make. You will be able to consider the ‘nature’ of your decisions and you will be able to categorize your decisions by their ‘nature’ and confirm the frequency of each major type of decision.
But – odds are you will never do that 24-hour exercise.
Perhaps, you will buy into sorting your decisions into two types/natures: easy decisions & tough decisions? This simple sorting will be a very good first step toward understanding then planning the types of decisions you face regularly.
On the Method of Decisions
There are also numerous ways to make decisions.
Decisions can be knee-jerks and blinks, relying on unconscious responses, emotional waves and intuition.
Decisions can be crafted by masters and orchestrated by maestros. Capturing this in a shorter description - when we make decisions we can “Plan the Work and Work the Plan” [paraphrasing Napoleon Hill].
This article is about planned decisions, which can be sorted into 3 'methods' 2:
Consultative and consensus decisions involve trade-offs, as examples:
As psychologists and judges will confirm:
- the ‘nature’ of the decision is important,
- the decision outcome is important, and
- the procedure or ‘method’ used to create the decision is important...especially if you want people to "buy-in".
Sorting Decisions by ‘Nature’ and ‘Method’
Simple tools exist to help people think through and sort out their decisions - examples include Pareto's Principle [80/20 Rule], Covey's Time Management Matrix and Berne's Transactional Analysis. Much time and effort can be saved by using these simple 1-page tools to sort out the best ways to make decisions. Also, these tools can be used to reduce decision-making conflicts and increase decision buy-in. It is a good idea to have a number of these tools in your decision-making toolkit. You can use them to set your personal decision-making rules and you can use them to communicate with others on your decision-making teams.
Here’s a starter tool you and your decision-makers can use to create a picture of the way you sort decisions by 'nature' and 'method' -
- As a general rule: when decisions align with goals they promote good habits; when decisions do not align with goals they promote bad habits.
- Brian Tracy recommended these categories.
On Apr 13, 2017
I won’t be surprised in the slightest way if you figure The Point is a rather trite point. My argument is – it isn’t a trite point.
The Point is a point worth thinking about.
Here’s where I am coming from…
Some bosses behave as if The Point is not true, or, more accurately, they behave as if it better not be true. Sometimes, we call these people Autocrats. They rule with absolute power. And they are very inclined to make stiff, inflexible rules…Master Rules [i.e., Master Rules under full double entendre].
Some bosses behave as if The Point is true, however, they fight against it every, single workaday of their lives*. Sometimes they are surprised when people question their decisions. Sometimes they get huffy when people question their decisions. Almost always, they feel and show negative emotions when people question their decisions.
Perhaps, these unhelpful reactions illustrate the flaws of those bosses who feel ‘position power’ provides special rights…rights that make their decisions golden?
Putting a finger on your Leadership pulse…
When your decisions are questioned – do you feel negative emotions?
If so, how’s that working for you?
And, how’s that working for the people who follow you?
If you are one of those people who question your boss's decisions - do you observe negative reactions?
If so, how's that make you feel?
And, what are you doing to generate better outcomes?
Have you given any thought to The Art of Good Questions?
* yes, technically speaking 'workaday' is not a noun...
On Apr 11, 2017
It seems some people choose to be indecisive. However, it would be dangerous to jump to the conclusion that decision-avoidance is a ‘happily made’ choice. More likely, decision-avoidance is an involuntary reaction or a conscious effort aimed at removing the possibility of negative consequences, which often follow decisions. For example, decisions open the door for second-guessing and criticism.
Some people are indecisive simply because it has become one of their bad habits. For these people - what started out as conscious decision-avoidance, over time, became a habit…i.e., a bad habit [for those who believe decisions are of value].
Some people are indecisive and appear to be oblivious to their predicament…it seems they know no better way. While their indecision may not register in their consciousness, ‘deep down’ their brains/minds are aware of the avoidance and, probably, they are experiencing some level of anxiety as a result of the avoidance.
The roots of this bad habit – indecision - are usually lack of drive or lack of self-confidence. However, in some cases indecision is caused by an anxiety disorder…perhaps, a very-troubling Anxiety Disorder.
While some may argue one cause is “laziness”, that word may be a little too strong.
If the person is struggling with an Anxiety Disorder then ‘laziness’ is an inappropriate description of the situation. In fact, when Anxiety Disorders are present, thinking or talking about laziness can be quite harmful. As an alternative to thinking and talking about laziness, we can think and talk about strategies designed to help people who struggle with Anxiety Disorders.
We can go one step farther.
We can also use these strategies to help any person who is indecisive…that is, we can help them if we are skilled at delivering the help and they are ready, willing, and able to receive it.
Some people choose to be indecisive. For example, I know a fellow who chooses to wait 2 days before responding to troubling or complicated email. That has two potentially positive implications: (1) management of task-timing [i.e., to maintain personal organization] and (2) control of emotions, to ensure productive communications.
On Feb 2, 2017
Some people choose to be indecisive.
Some people are indecisive simply because it has become one of their bad habits.
Some people are indecisive and are oblivious to their predicament…apparently, they know no better way.
The roots of this bad habit – indecision - are usually lack of drive or lack of self-confidence. While some may argue one cause is “laziness”, that word may be a little too strong. Some people simply lack drive in the area of making decisions. At the same time others find them indecisive they can be busy doing work they deem to be more important than making decisions, in particular – they can be doing things they find more important than making business decisions.
Regardless, if a person is working and being indecisive about their work then the roots of their indecision are around lack of drive and lack of self-confidence.
In business, indecision can generate very serious business problems. Perhaps the worst of the problems is, the contagion of indecision kills momentum and that creates a confused and stalled business culture. A stalled business culture is easily identified: the people en masse wander around decisions, avoiding clarity of thought and clarity of conclusions.
When a business culture is stalled by contagious indecision, only a strong leader can remove the problem. On occasion, this leadership can rise from within the ranks. On occasion, this leadership is derived from intentional change at the top of the hierarchy.
And, the stalled-culture problem must be removed. If it is not removed then the procrastination death spiral begins…and the business is doomed to a life marked by sub-standard performance or a death by a thousand procrastinated cuts.
On Aug 18, 2016
Link to Part 1
Link to Part 2
Some say the key to accountability is 'delegating responsibility': when people feel responsible for something they hold themselves accountable.
But - How would you delegate responsibility?
Could you ask people questions like:
- "Do you believe you can accomplish this task?"
- "Do you buy into this task?"
- "Are you enthusiastic about this task?"
"Do you believe you can accomplish this task?"
- If people don't believe they can succeed, really, how likely is it they will succeed? [Sure, some argue "anything's possible", however, in real life that's not the way things work out. As the saying goes, 'You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear'.]
- If people don't believe they can succeed, is that belief founded in attitude or competence? [This is an important distinction: attitude rests in their court; you can help them educate and train for competence whereas they alone control their attitude...or worse, maybe their attitude has moved beyond their control.]
- If people don't believe they can succeed, do they know something you don't know? [You have to select your battles with care if you intend to win the war. At least sometimes, what you don't know can hurt you.]
"Do you buy into this task?"
- If people don't buy into the task, why don't they buy into it? [Is it due to habit?...some people think Devil's Advocate is an important role and if nobody else is going to play the role then they will step up and do it. Some people just don't fit on some teams.]
- If people don't buy into the task, is that due to ethical differences? [If the task violates moral codes or personal values then it is important to know their rules and where their lines are drawn. Violation of master rules and invasion of personal boundaries are poor choices, doomed to generate problems.]
- If people don't buy into the task, what would it take to get them to buy into it? [Do you need to alter the way you make decisions and delegate work?]
"Are you enthusiastic about this task?"
- If people are not enthusiastic - why? [Does the task test their weakness rather than align with their strength? People enjoy working in areas of strength.]
- If people are not enthusiastic, is it because they feel they are overworked and do not have enough time? [You might need to help them understand their priorities and how to accomplish them.]
- If people are not enthusiastic, are they stressed out or burned out? [Perhaps, their energy levels are low and they need to refuel? Perhaps, they are temporarily unable to be enthusiastic about any task?]
Could you ask yourself: "As a leader, a decision maker, and a delegator of tasks - am I doing a good job?"
On Jul 12, 2016
Some people know exactly what they need. They know the details. They know their 'must haves', their 'nice to haves', and their 'fantasy wish lists'. And - they know exactly how to communicate those 'levels of needs' to other people.
In relative terms, very few people actually live in that zone.
There are a number of reasons:
- most people do not take the time to thoroughly think through the things they need, want, and wish to have
- most people avoid details to the extent that is possible, particularly when under stress [which visits them regularly]
- many people live more in the moment than under a plan [i.e., they do not have plans to serve as guides for their lives, their needs, their wants, or their wishes/dreams/'visions']
- many people struggle to communicate their needs, wants, and wishes [as a result of their lack of skill to expressing these things or others lack of skill at listening...or both]
So - many people really do not know exactly what they need. They may have a good idea of where they want to go but they lack clarity on how to get there. As they work hard to get to where they want to go, they lack clarity on how to obtain help from other people. They fail to present their needs properly: so, they do not achieve their objectives.
Over the last few years, I have seen this have very negative impact in 3 business processes:
- Project Management
- Software Solutions
Now, I am going to take a tangential leap and introduce some thoughts. These thoughts are tied to today's topic [you know what you need - or your don't] and the 3 processes mentioned above.
Auftragstaktik [Commander's Intent] – check out this Thought Post from November 2011. When you think about it, how does this Napoleon-inspired approach [to ‘needs’] mesh with processes for delegation, project management and software solutions? As you think about this, bear in mind – some people believe ‘the devil is in the details’ while others believe ‘rules are made to be broken’.
More details on Delegation, Project Management & Software Solutions to follow [in a Thought Post, next week]…