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Archive for March 2015

Have you ever made a decision and then feared it was the wrong one?

Businesswoman pain

Have you ever made a decision and then immediately started to second-guess yourself? You likely kept going back over the problem and how you solved it and then began to have doubts.

Or maybe you developed a great solution to a work problem only to find that your associates and boss don’t see it your way and you can’t figure out how to convince them with your logic that you can see so clearly.

If you have been following my writings and speeches for a while you know that decision-making is one of my main topics. I work with groups to help them sharpen their decision-making thinking and their tools for explaining their results.

I just finished reading “How the Wise Decide” by Zeckhauser and Sandusky. They spent years researching the subject by interviewing great leaders. In a sense they have given me proof to quote for the methods I have been advocating for some time. This should give you extra comfort in applying these techniques.

I definitely recommend the book.

The authors culled the principles into 6 main categories.

  1. Go directly to the source yourself. Even though the leaders they studied ran very large organizations and had tremendous responsibilities, these leaders said that instead of taking all their information filtered through their reports they felt the need to gather some of their intelligence directly from the source, the customers, suppliers, or others.
  2. Seek out people who will not be afraid to tell you that you are wrong. Use advisors with enough diversity of backgrounds and thinking styles to allow you to see your topic from several different viewpoints. These leaders wanted to see and hear opinions challenged (but not personal attacks).
  3. Treat risk as one of the parameters to be compared not something to be avoided. Also very interesting: reward good decisions even when the end result doesn’t work out. We can’t know which is the best decision out of alternatives but we can compare and choose good decisions. Openly discuss failures and missteps to learn from them, not to blame. When I was in direct sales I sat down with my manager and team to go over what I had done to try to win a sale and what had gone wrong. We could all learn from my mistakes instead of descending into denial.
  4. Keep the organization’s vision front-and-center. Make decisions based on whether or not it moves the organization closer to the vision
  5. “Listen with purpose.” My expression is to “listen for meaning.” Both descriptions help you focus on what is being said in a way that allows you to understand and paraphrase back.
  6. Be transparent in leading your organization. Share how and why decisions were made. Challenges, vision, and mission guide the leader as well as everyone else in the organization.

One more point I would add, the best decisions are not one-time unique situations but are made up of a series of smaller decisions that are part of an overall strategy.

Cultivate Curiosity, Yours and Your Associates

Cultivate Curiosity, Yours and Your Associates

Close-up of a girl wearing a tiara and peeking
Young children are naturally curious.  Too often we get impatient with their incessant questions and dampen their curiosity.  Curiosity is a good thing, even a great thing.
With associates as with children, it may be advantageous to ask them a question when they ask you for an answer.  How have you tried to answer this so far?  Or how could you explore the idea yourself to find possible answers?  Be sure to encourage the thought that there may be several good answers not just one.  What options have you thought of, so far? How can you search out multiple options and then make a choice among the options?
As with all questions you ask, unless you are a teacher testing your students, only ask questions you are not already certain of the answer.  You have to be open to the ideas and answers you will hear.  You have to want to hear creative and unusual answers.
Ask, how will you explore options and compare them?
Here are some ideas to share as ways to compare and contrast possible paths to make thoughtful conclusions.
  1. Force yourself or your team to write down as many options as possible.  Challenge yourselves to list at least 10 ways to solve the problem, or some number that requires a bigger list than you think is possible.  The reason for the stretch list is that the first ones you think about will be the same old boring over-used answers.  It is only when you have to come up with larger numbers of answers that you get into the creative and interesting solutions.
  2. Some ideas that would normally get rejected without exploring will make it on to the list.
  3. Every option listed deserves some what-if and how-could-it-work analysis.
  4. Combinations and permutations of the various options can sometimes evolve into a better solution than any of the answers listed individually.
  5. The process of brainstorming options will get your brain on a roll allowing you to keep coming up with more ideas after you thought you were finished.  Keep paper and pencil or a recorder handy and record every idea no matter how far-fetched.
Your brand, your organization and you yourself will be differentiated by all the great ideas, solutions, and the ideation process itself.  People are attracted by and buy from organizations that are clearly differentiated.