How To Be Decisive

decisions
This is an excerpt from Start a Successful Business: Expert Advice to Take Your Startup from Idea to Empire by Colleen DeBaise © 2018 AMACOM/AMA. All rights reserved.

Be Courageous

All leaders must make courageous decisions. It goes with the job. You understand that in certain situations, some difficult and timely decisions must be made in the best interests of the entire organization. Such decisions require a firmness, authority, and finality that will not please everyone.

 

ADVICE: HOW TO BE DECISIVE

“I think everybody who creates something is doing something audacious. Because the most difficult time is when you are starting from scratch with no financial backing—just an idea. So true audaciousness comes about with just those people who have the pluck and the courage to say, ‘Screw it; let’s do it.’” -Richard Branson, Virgin Group chairman

There are a few truths when it comes to decision making, according to Anna Johansson, a business consultant:

Logical decisions tend to trump emotional ones. Since emotions can sometimes make us biased or see things in an inaccurate light, basing a decision on logic, rather than on a current emotional state, usually gives you more objective information to make the final call.

Thought-out decisions tend to trump impulsive ones. Because you’ve spent more time on the problem, you’ll understand it more thoroughly and be better versed in the variables that might arise from any possible route.

Flexible decisions tend to trump concrete ones. Things change frequently, so making a decision that allows for some eventual degree of flexibility usually offers more adaptable options than a decision that’s absolute or concrete.

These aren’t absolute rules, however. For example, many entrepreneurs trust their gut when making decisions—and indeed, instinct can sometimes beat over-analytical thinking.

 

“Fortune does favor the bold and you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.” -Sheryl Sandberg

 

Here are some strategies you can use in almost any decision making process to ensure that you make the best choice, according to Johansson:

 

Step Away From the Problem

Scientific research suggests that distancing yourself from a problem can help you face it in a more objective way. For example, let’s say you’re trying to choose between two different opportunities, and you can’t tell which one is better for you. Instead of remaining in your own frame of mind, consider yourself as an outside observer, such as a mentor giving advice or a fly on the wall. Removing yourself in this way helps you filter out some of your cognitive biases and lean you toward a more rational decision.

 

Research: distancing yourself from a problem allows you to face it objectively.

 

Give Yourself Some Time

Most of us end up being lousy decision makers when we try to force a decision in a moment, or push through to a final choice after first learning about a situation. In some high-pressure environments, this is a must, but it isn’t the most effective or rewarding way to do things. Instead, accuracy and reliability in decision making tends to increase if you first give yourself some time to decompress and collect yourself—even if it’s just a few minutes. This may also help you remove yourself from the problem, knocking out two of these strategies in one fell swoop.

 

Know That There Is No Right Answer

You can stress yourself out trying to pin down the answer that’s objectively correct, if you believe one such answer exists. Instead, remind yourself that there’s almost never an objectively correct answer. “All you can do is make the decision that’s the best for you at the time, and it’s probably going to work out okay either way,” Johansson says.

 

Forget the Past

Remember the lessons you’ve learned from the past, but don’t let your past experiences affect what you choose in the present. For example, if you’ve paid a hundred dollars a month for a service that isn’t getting you anywhere, you may be tempted to continue simply for the reason that you’ve already spent thousands of dollars. This skewed line of reasoning is an example of an escalation bias, in which you’re hesitant to cut your losses. You can’t change the past, so instead, look to the present and future.

 

Leadership Tip: don’t let your past experiences affect what you choose in the present.

 

Commit

You can overanalyze a problem as much as you like, but it probably isn’t going to help anything. It’s just going to bring up new complications, force you to second-guess yourself, and possibly double back on a decision you’ve already made. All of these will make the process more excruciating and will make you unsatisfied with whatever decision you land on. Instead, pick an option early and fully commit to it.

There’s no perfect way to make a decision, and there are very few situations in which a decision is ever “right.” However, with these strategies in tow, you’ll be well-equipped to make more rational, complete, and best of all, satisfying decisions in your life.

Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For

Become a Good Authority

What if chasing balance was actually making us unhappy?

What’s the true purpose of work?

 

“Change the game, don’t let the game change you.” -Macklemore

 

Personal and professional growth. We often think they’re different. We live our lives as if the personal and professional are in neat little silos, as if one didn’t affect the other.

I’ve often said that leaders help people with the personal, not just the professional. And sharing a little of the personal may make a big impact in the professional.

The two are interrelated.

And so, when I read Jonathan Raymond’s new work, Good Authority: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For, I was excited to find a book that explained why this is…and how to use it to become a better leader. Jonathan is the former CEO of EMyth and now the owner of Refound, an advisory firm that offers leadership training and coaching. And I think his take on “good authority” will have you nodding along with what we want from the very best leaders.

 

“When you make peace with authority, you become authority.” –Jim Morrison

 

Own Your Contribution

Contrast good versus bad authority. What are a few attributes you would think of?

I’d say the first attribute is in the willingness to own your role as an authority in the first place. I see too many modern leaders try to abdicate that responsibility, either outright or in subtle ways, and try to be nice at the expense of giving people the boundaries they need to grow. The main attribute of bad authority is when a leader doesn’t own their contribution to a stuck dynamic or problematic situation. For example, a leader who hasn’t provided a reasonable timeline to reach a goal and then blames the team for not delivering on it fast enough. Good authority is the art of owning your contribution, being transparent with your team, and then moving forward in a collaborative way.

 

“Our strengths are not our own until they are freed of the burden of having to heal the past.” –Jonathan Raymond

 

Would you share a little about the concept of “borrowed authority”?

Borrowed authority is the idea that until we investigate the beliefs about authority we inherited from our parents and teachers – not to mention the business culture in general – we’re still borrowing our leadership style from the past instead of discovering the one that genuinely expresses who we are today. In Good Authority, I offer that the opposite of Good Authority isn’t bad authority, it’s borrowed authority. What I mean by that is that most leaders have good intentions, but until we do the work, we’re bogged down by ideas and beliefs about what it means to be the boss that hold us back and create pain and confusion for the employees in our care as a result.

 

“You’re only as young as the last time you changed your mind.” –Timothy O’Leary

 

Make it About Relationships

I want to ask about organizational culture. You say, “Nobody sets out to make their employees overwhelmed, stressed-out, and miserable.” I have to say that I read that and laughed, thinking, “If Jonathan only met one of my bad bosses, he’d think differently!” You’re right, of course, but people are overwhelmed and stressed. What’s are some ways to change a culture into one that is positive, empowered, and driven?

Good Authority CoverThis may sound odd, but the first problem is bad math. One of the things I ask leaders to do is to add up all the time they’re spending (1) doing re-work for a struggling employee, (2) mediating their interpersonal conflicts, (3) answering questions that they should be able to answer themselves, and (4) complaining to their spouse, partner or friends about how frustrated they are. The pivot is incredibly simple and goes against our conditioning, which is why we typically avoid it. The key to create a positive, empowered and driven culture is the exact same thing that will get you out of being overwhelmed and stressed. Repressing what you see and feel leads to emotional, mental, and physical problems, and it keeps that data away from the one person who needs to hear it in order to grow.

There’s an art to talking about work in a way that feels personally relevant to your employee, but it boils down to this: Give them feedback not about tasks and projects but about how they’re showing up as a human being. Make it about relationships, feeling their impact on others, how they avoid taking risks—those are the things that people will immediately see as helping them get better at work and at life at the same time. There’s a whole new type of organizational culture that opens up from that simple shift.

 

Leadership Tip: More Yoda, Less Superman

 

How to Become a Great Listener

What are some techniques you use to help coach someone who has problems with listening? How can we all learn to be better listeners at a deeper level?

Before we talk about the deeper cut, one simple technique that’s often used in mediation applies well in the workplace in general. Have the person you’re trying to help repeat back what they heard before responding. Highlight for them what the gaps are between what was said (and, even more importantly, how it was said) and what they heard and how they interpreted it. There’s a lifetime’s worth of personal growth work there.

 

“We teach best what we most need to learn.” –Richard Bach

 

At a deeper level, and this is something I work on every day, is to re-examine what we think our value is as leaders. That’s a lot of what Good Authority is about: to learn how the highest value we can add to our teams, and in the rest of our lives, is to put our thumb on the side of the scale that’s about creating the space for others to discover that next better version of themselves, as opposed to tending to fill that space ourselves. I love leaders and have so much respect for anyone who throws their heart into a problem with no guarantee of success. The pivot is to see how not everyone works that way, and that to create the organization that can do more than you can on your own, you have to listen for those other voices.

Finally, it comes down to not shooting the messenger. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve seen, in fact I’ve never seen one where this isn’t true, where one person becomes a scapegoat for the cultural dysfunction and is moved out (fired or pushed into quitting), and the message they were carrying never sees the full light of day.  It’s a basic rule of group dynamics, but I see CEOs do it all the time, moving out the ‘disgruntled’ employee instead of leaning into the conversation and discovering the most powerful brand ambassador they’ve got.

 

Tip: Focus more on who people are and less on deadlines and tasks.

 

Let Go of the Past

How about letting go of the past? What advice do you give to someone who is letting the past limit their future?

Find a way to get in relationship with it. Meaning, when you notice yourself re-hashing or cycling in an old story, imagine a friend was telling you that story, what would you tell them? It’s a life’s work for sure, but learn to reframe our past in terms of how it made us the person we are today. I heard this phrase again recently that I absolutely love: “The past didn’t happen to us, it happened for us.”  To be clear, I’m not suggesting people try and transcend or gloss over traumatic or otherwise difficult personal experiences, only that we hold a bit of double-vision about them. Let yourself feel whatever there is to feel about whatever it is that you feel it’s holding back. Cry, laugh, roll up the car window on the freeway and let out a yell from the depths of your soul. By giving yourself permission to let it be what it is all the way, only then do you open up the room to see it in a new way. The paradox is that you don’t have to do any additional work to do this. It’s the process of giving yourself permission to feel that brings that higher mind back online, and you can move forward with confidence and a sense of self that might surprise you.

 

“Shake it off.” –Taylor Swift

 

How to Increase Accountability

What Leaders and the Declaration Signers Have in Common

July 4, 1776

If you’ve ever been to Philadelphia in the summer, you know how hot it is.

Imagine yourself there in 1776. You’re a representative of one of the colonies, wearing a dress coat, a shirt with sleeves tightly cuffed at your wrist and, of course, your silk stockings.

It’s now July 4th and the document is ready for signature. With its final approval, the colonies will declare independence from Great Britain, ending a long debate and all revisions of the document. The United States, a new nation, will be born.

You approach the table and see John Hancock’s signature in massive letters, which he says is so that “King George can see it without spectacles.”

Your turn to sign. The other delegates look at you expectantly.

You realize the weight of the moment, but you also realize that, by signing, your own life will be in danger. To many, you will be a traitor. If the revolution fails, you will hang for just a few letters on a piece of paper.

You push those thoughts aside and sign.

Your signature, along with the others, just changed the world.

A new beginning. The United States of America is now born.

The new country was far from perfect. The horrific practice of slavery wouldn’t end until the Civil War nearly ripped the country apart. Women and minorities had no vote.

Still, the United States of America would become a country that most of us are proud to call home. We value family, freedom, God and country.

Back to July 4th, 1776.

 

Your Leadership Moment

It was an incredible leadership moment.

As I reflect this week on the July 4th holiday, I think about the leadership lessons from that day:

“Leaders take risks to assure a better future.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders know growth often comes from the uncomfortable.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders inspire others to a better vision of themselves.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders don’t wait for perfection.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders know that imperfect progress is better than stagnation.” -Skip Prichard

 

“Leaders believe more in tomorrow’s promise than today’s problems.” -Skip Prichard

 

Decision Time

Whatever Your Past, You Can Write A New Ending To Your Story

Rewrite Your Story

I remember her sitting on the couch, telling her story. My mom was listening, nodding her head and taking it in. This woman had a tough life and she recounted stories of abuse, of hurt, of neglect. My presence barely registered as she poured out her pain. Only a few, carefully chosen questions, that was all it took from mom. Like a skilled surgeon piercing infected skin, she used a question like a scalpel, surgically timed and designed to alleviate pain.

 

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” -Shakespeare

 

It’s funny how I can recall the room so clearly now: the curtains and wallpaper in the room, the sofas, the layout, the piano nestled in the corner. It’s all etched in my memory. Also etched in my memory is the story. It was different from others, sure, but in so many ways it was the same.

My family took people in; mostly people in trouble; people in need; people with histories, pain, and shame. Though we were not the wealthiest in the world, there was always room for one more at the table. Some came for a single meal while others would stay for years.

As I listened to the particulars of this woman’s story, I felt for her. You couldn’t help but be affected as you heard the details.

I learned some lessons:

  • Pain can be used as a powerful force for good.
  • We don’t have to keep re-reading that chapter.
  • We can turn the page.
  • We can welcome new characters, new narratives, and new opportunities.
  • We can write the ending.
  • We can create a story worth living, one that can inspire others.

 

“Your life’s best chapters are ahead of you. Turn the page with great expectation.” -Skip Prichard

 

You say, “Skip, I didn’t have that kind of life. I didn’t have abuse or pain. Life was normal.”

Leaders: Choose Your Season

Time to Pause

This morning I went for a walk in the woods behind my house. It’s that time of year when winter’s line is blurring into spring, and spring is beginning to win. The trees remain leafless, and yet, if you look closely enough, you can see the tiniest hints of green scattered here and there. Days are beginning to shift and I feel the restlessness of nature. A slight wind is at first cold and biting before it shifts to a warm, teasing breeze. Walking to the back of the house, I glance up and watch quietly as a small bird ducks under the deck, carrying twigs to make a nest. Spring, undoubtedly, is on the way.

The changing of the seasons. I’m not sure why, but it makes me stop and think more. It’s time for a pause, a look back and a look ahead.  Spring is an exciting time, filled with new possibilities.  To fully take advantage of its hope, we need to discard what we are carrying to free us to take on new opportunities.

 

“You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself.” –Jim Rohn

 

Behind us, let’s leave:

  • The ideas of yesterday that didn’t work.
  • The insults and criticisms that others launched, still clawing at us.
  • The clutter of our lives. Yes, spring cleaning allows us to remove the physical clutter. But don’t stop there. It’s the spring cleaning of our thoughts that will yield a great future.
  • The missed goals of what we didn’t do. Holding onto them will only weigh us down.
  • The negative people who don’t believe in us and don’t join our vision.
  • The regrets of yesterday that we continue to allow to rule over today.

 

“Each of us is imbued with the power to choose to the season of our mind.” -Skip Prichard

Leadership Tip: Leave behind the negative people who don’t join your vision.

 

Ahead of us, let’s grab onto:

  • The dream that we shoved into the drawer, but hold onto.
  • The new idea that may prove to be the catalyst of our future.
  • The untried, the experiment, the positive.
  • The new friends who inspire us and push us out of our comfort zone.
  • The wisdom of the past that whispers its undeniable truth.
  • The happiness that trembles just beneath the surface, wanting to inspire.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” -Stephen Covey

Leadership Tip: Embrace friends who inspire and push you out of your comfort zone.

 

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