Being Decisive is Overrated

decision making
This is a guest post by Karen Martin, president of the global consulting firm TKMG, Inc. Her latest book, Clarity First, outlines specific actions to dramatically improve organizational and individual performance.

The Problem with Quick Decision Making

Most leaders agree, it’s important to have clear ideas about the issues that matter to them and their organizations. Yet, leaders are praised far more often for making quick decisions than for thinking clearly.

In such a fast-paced, noisy world, leaders understandably feel the pressure to think and act fast—but this can be to their detriment. Today, more so than ever, it’s critical to give oneself the time needed to assess a situation fully, gather on-point information, and develop a thoughtful position.

Not convinced? Think of it this way: clear thought is a precursor to making good decisions, acting decisively, solving problems, and seizing opportunities in a way that consistently fulfills the organization’s goals.

But, as most leaders will attest, this is much easier said than done. You have to be patient and possess disciplined thinking habits.

Here are three ways to start:

Be mindful.

Mindfulness means paying attention purposefully, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. It’s a state of being that allows its practitioners to lead with greater clarity by developing a calmer and more focused mind. It introduces a pause between receipt of information and your reaction to it, and it slows thinking processes enough that they become observable.

Mindfulness and the practice of mindfulness meditation is a trending topic in leadership and management literature for good reason: there’s a growing body of scientific evidence showing that mindfulness meditation changes the brain in a powerful, performance-enhancing way. It develops areas of your brain responsible for self-regulation, allowing you to more effectively place your attention where you want it, regulate your mood, and manage your response to information.

Here’s another bonus of mindfulness: it helps create more healthful stress responses and more effective ways for the brain to process large volumes of inputs.

 

“Mindfulness helps create more healthful stress responses and more effective ways for the brain to process large volumes of inputs.” -Karen Martin

 

Ask questions.

4 Steps to Managing Your Self-Talk

self talk

Managing Your Self-Talk

Self-talk is not often covered as a leadership topic, but Erika Andersen cites it as one of the most important skills to master.

Erika Andersen is the founding partner of Proteus, a firm that focuses on leader readiness. She’s the author of three other books:  Leading So People Will FollowBeing Strategic, and Growing Great Employees. All of her books are full of actionable advice from her three decades of advising and coaching executives.

I recently spoke with her about her tips to manage our internal conversations.

 

Leadership Tip: listening and mastering self-talk are critical skills for leaders.

 

Let’s talk about managing your self-talk. How important is managing self-talk?

Critically important. If I had to name the two most valuable skills I’ve learned over the past thirty years, I’d pick listening and managing my self-talk. It’s enormously powerful to be able to recognize and shift how you’re talking to yourself about yourself and your circumstances. It allows you to have much more control over how you respond to what happens within you and around you.

 

4 Steps 

You give 4 steps to managing it: Recognize. Record. Rethink. Repeat. 

Yes, here’s how it works:

Recognize: In order to manage your self-talk, you have to “hear” it. Unless you’re aware of this internal monologue, it’s impossible to change it. For instance, let’s say you’re feeling incurious about something you need to learn. You notice your mental voice saying, This is so boring – I can’t possibly focus on this enough to learn it. Once you start attending to the voice in your head, and recognizing what it’s saying, you can begin to do something about it.

 

Success Tip: writing down your self-talk is a key part of managing it.

How to Lead With Clarity

lead with clarity

Lead With Clarity

One of the most common problems facing organizations, teams, and leaders today is a lack of clarity. Clarity is a critical component of success. We all want it, even crave it, but it often seems elusive.

Brad Deutser argues that clarity can be created and help drive people, profit, and performance when it’s found. Brad is founder and CEO of management consulting firm Deutser, and he has worked with a variety of businesses from numerous industries. I found his new book, Leading Clarity: The Breakthrough Strategy to Unleash People, Profit, and Performance, an exceptional read.

We then talked about leadership and clarity:

 

The Clarity Conundrum 

What is the clarity conundrum?
The constant state of change and ever-present chaos in the world today is unprecedented. We are constantly navigating not one world, but multiple worlds simultaneously with the political, societal, social and technological changes that are happening at a more rapid pace than at any time in history. Leaders are forced to make daily decisions in a high-stakes environment that is often entangled with competing needs and priorities where there is not one obvious answer. These decisions have the potential to define their company and determine their ultimate success. We identify these decisions, inflection points or daily puzzles as clarity conundrums. They take many different forms in companies and in the lives of the leader. Clarity conundrums include the need for a new vision/direction, repositioning, a growth imperative, and they often result from a merger, a new leader, an acquisition, a safety issue, crisis, or hitting a plateau or reaching critical juncture point in the organization. What they all have in common is that they require clarity, as a process, to successfully navigate the necessary transition to the desired future state.

 

“Clarity isn’t an arrival point, a vista, or a destination.” -Brad Deutser

 

Think Inside the Box

Why do you advocate thinking inside the box? I love it, and it’s counterintuitive from all the advice commonly shared.
For much of my early career, I was prized as an out of the box thinker. Clients could rely on me to produce ideas and solutions that were fundamentally different and way outside the mainstream. I was wildly creative – but that creativity did not always align with the desired results. About two decades ago, I began to rethink the box paradigm, and using client results and research began to validate that “inside the box” is actually where real creativity, innovation and performance are birthed. Interestingly, in our early research, we challenged people to define their box. Most people simply accepted the metaphor without assigning definition to it. When we uncovered the parameters of the box and put clear definition to each side, including the top and bottom, we were able to fundamentally change the trajectory of business for our clients and the connectivity of the workforce to the organization and its leadership. Inside the box thinking allows leaders to have a clearly defined organization and direction, and employees to have something that they can understand and belong to. It is a game changer.

 

Turn Your Day Job into Your Dream Job

 

Day Job to Dream Job

 

86% of the population wishes they weren’t at their job.

That’s a startling statistic shared by Kary Oberbrunner. Kary is an author, speaker, and coach who left his day job to pursue his dream job several years ago. His personal story is compelling, overcoming severe stuttering, depression, and self-injury to becoming a community and business leader.

I recently spoke with him about his work and particularly about his book, Day Job to Dream Job: Practical Steps For Turning Your Passion Into A Full-Time Gig.

 

“Sometimes stories cry out to be told in such loud voices that you write them just to shut them up.” -Stephen King

 

In our video interview, we talk about:

What it takes to pursue your life with purpose and meaning.

Kary calls people who pursue this “dream jobbers” and says only 14% of people are truly excited about their jobs.

 

Clarity. It starts with clarity. And with that clarity comes action.

 

 “Clarity attracts and confusion repels.” -Kary Oberbrunner

 

“Clarity has rough edges. Clarity is sharp. People are scared of clarity because they will either be accepted or rejected.” -Kary Oberbrunner

 

The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

Clarity: How Smart Leaders Achieve Outstanding Performance

clarity

Achieve Outstanding Performance

Lean management expert Karen Martin tackles the problem so many organizations and leaders face: a lack of clarity. In her new book, Clarity First: How Smart Leaders and Organizations Achieve Outstanding Performance, she gives specific recommendations on how to improve clarity and thus your overall performance.

The book helps leaders identify the organization’s purpose, set priorities, and build problem solving capabilities while developing personal clarity to be a more effective leader.

I recently spoke with Karen about the importance of clarity and the role it plays in leadership and organizational success.

 

“Clarity, in contrast, feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil.” -Karen Martin

 

The Importance of Clarity

What are some of the effects of a lack of clarity?

Lack of clarity touches organizations in small, daily ways and in large ways that introduce risks to customer satisfaction, the employee experience, the balance sheet, and compliance. An example of a “small” issue might be a customer problem that remains unsolved because no one knows who owns it. Larger problems brew when various parts of an organization work at cross purposes from each other. In the end, a lack of clarity often results in runaway expenses, market share loss, high turnover, and sluggish innovation, to name a few.

Those outcomes are often caused or at least exacerbated by the incremental accumulation of ambiguity about work that happens closer to the customer. For instance, a lack of clarity about customer requirements result in products that don’t meet true customer needs. It results in poorly designed and poorly managed processes that require heroics to execute. It results in excessive rework or productivity-sapping time spent clarifying what should have been clear to begin with. In a low-clarity environment, margin and morale erode because people do work that doesn’t fit together and doesn’t move the organization toward a common performance goal.

Clarity, in contrast, feeds an organization in the same way that fertilizer feeds soil. It nourishes everything visible, as well all the quiet and invisible activities that take place out of sight to make an organization outstanding, such as decision making. When you have it, there is greater alignment, greater collaboration, higher levels of innovation, and so on. When you don’t have it, everything becomes stressed to the point that even basic decisions require more effort that they should need.

Imagine you are leading an organization filled with well-meaning and talented people in a growing industry, but you haven’t developed a culture where everyone values holding clarity front-and-center in everything they do—foundational clarity like: why you are in business, what the organization’s top priorities are, how the organization is performing both operationally and financially, and the level of performance it wants to achieve, and other important questions that drive organizational alignment and outstanding performance. Without clarity on these issues, in the near-immediate term, the relationship between the organization and its people begins to break down. Team members begin to feel unsure that their work produces customer value or contributes to organizational success. Such uncertainty leads to frustration, low morale, and eventual disengagement, creating low productivity, talent turnover, poor customer service, loss of market share, eroded margins, and so on.

To be clear, I emphasize words such as everyone and everything because clarity requires it. Leaders are in a privileged role. You may feel that you DO have clarity. But if your direct reports don’t, or if their beliefs about the priorities of the organization are different from those of the peers they work with on a daily basis, then the organization as a whole lacks clarity even if there are pockets of clarity here and there.

 

“Purpose is your why. Why does your organization exist? Why do you deliver the particular goods or services that you do?” -Karen Martin

 

Six P’s of Organizational Clarity