We all make make many decisions each day. Decisions that range from simple things such as what to wear, to more strategic matters such as where to invest. At work, as you get into more senior roles the decisions are likely to get more complex, and the consequences more significant.
Trying to go it alone can be fraught with danger. The best decision makers know how to work collectively – leveraging the skills and talents of those around them.
Likewise, the most effective teams know who needs to get involved in decision processes, when they need to be involved and how they need to be involved. All team members play a critical role in creating the optimal environment in which to make decisions.
It’s about time, space, and deliberate focus.
It’s comforting to think that the brain, with its vast capacity for processing streams of information, is infallible. The truth is it’s highly fallible, and it can often fail when it’s most needed.
When your brain is tired it eagerly takes the path of least resistance, and in so doing, make the decision that’s easiest or most familiar. However, when you are making decisions that are complex and involve unknowns, taking that path isn’t likely to lead to the best outcome.
What helps is to plan your day – making crucial important decisions when you are fresh and your brain is rested. Typically, that won’t be after a full day of meetings, and is more likely to be early rather than later in the day.
- Are you (your team members) making decisions when you/they are tired?
- How can meeting schedules be better structured so crucial decisions are made when one’s brain is at peak performance?
- What time of day is optimal for you and your team’s decision making?
Being busy is a constant, and with so many of us zooming, skyping and MS teaming all day long it’s easy to rush from meeting to meeting.
Being overly busy can interfere with ethical decision making. Research reveals that when people feel pressed for time they can make decisions in a way that’s out of character.
In the early 1970s, John Darley and Daniel Batson from Princeton University examined how time pressure affects behaviour. They invited students to participate in a series of experiments. In one of these experiments, the students were told to move from one building to another, with the testers varying the amount of ‘urgency’ in this message.
To move between the buildings, the students had to go past a person slumped on the floor and moaning.
What the researchers found is that the more urgent the message, the less likely it was for the person to stop and help. At the same time, for those who didn’t stop many appeared agitated when they got to the next building. Why? Because they were conflicted in their desire to help and the instructions they were given to get to the new building quickly. As well, they operated in a way that was out of line with what they knew to be the right thing to do.
It’s easy to fail to see what is going on when you’re busy, and pre-occupied with demands and growing commitments. Consequently, you fail to consider critical factors that should be accounted for when making your decision.
Some decisions are best made ‘fast’ (relying on instinct), and others ‘slow’ (relying on deliberate thought).
- How can you best carve out thinking time in your day?
- What support can you provide your leader or team members about how and when to make fast decisions or slow decisions?
It can be hard to be the person who puts on what Edward de Bono called the ‘black hat’. We worry that if no one else is voicing a concern or questioning than perhaps we’ve misinterpreted the issue being discussed. However, posing the question may help your colleagues see the issue from a different perspective.
All team members play a crucial role in asking questions, and leaders play a critical part in creating the environment where questions and challenges are welcomed.
- Are there questions you can ask that may help your colleagues think differently about this decision?
- Are there other people who should be involved in this decision?
- Are there questions you are holding back from asking, that should be asked? What needs to shift for you to ask the question?
As leadership guru, Peter Drucker, remarked: “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence – it is to act with yesterday’s logic”.
Given current events, that’s a timely reminder of why it’s so necessary to put effort into creating the best possible environment for decision making.
Getting you ready for tomorrow, today®
Michelle Gibbings is bringing back the happy to workplace culture. The author of three books, and a global keynote speaker, she’s on a mission to help leaders, teams and organisations create successful workplaces – where people thrive and progress is accelerated.