By Michelle Loch FIML, Neuroleadership and Communications expert, Founder and Director at Michelle Loch – Leading Humans
As I have become older, and busier, and more distracted in my work and home life, my capacity for making decisions has felt really challenged, and from my conversations with colleagues, it seems I am not alone in that challenge. There are a number of things that can get in the way of making decisions.
I often say to my clients…’people don’t know what they want and they don’t tell the truth’. This is not intentional, but our natural cognitive bias and subjectivity get in the way. We are not good at challenging and stretching our thinking (which is why having a great coach is invaluable) so what we think we want and have articulated is often not quite right and there is a need to reflect deeper.
Another of our human challenges is our relative incapacity to manage complex and conflicting data, or simply the volume of information inside our heads. When it gets too much, it’s overwhelming and the brain interprets this as threatening and pulls back it’s thinking in favour of protection.
Thirdly, our need to be ‘accepted’ is one of our strongest human motivational drivers, and the risk of making the wrong decision, or a decision that might negatively impact the favourable perceptions of others toward you, even if that risk is very low or indeed if the decision is necessary, will evoke an avoidance response and procrastination will ensue.
Here are three ideas you might like to consider in order to improve your decisiveness.
Figure out What you Really Want
This is actually quite a tough one to do on your own, but take some time to reflect on the real outcome you are looking for. It may be useful to ask these questions of yourself:
- What are my big picture goals that relate to this, and to my life/career/role? Can I articulate them in one or two sentences?
- Is there a specific dilemma that is causing the need for this decision? Can I articulate it in one or two sentences?
- How do I feel about this issue and how do I want to be feeling around it?
- In one sentence, what is the specific decision I am needing to now make?
Investigate all the Options
Make a long list of options and alternatives. Consider including the options of doing nothing, going with your gut, and also the not so palatable ones like making the unpopular decision. Your first options will be the obvious ones…then ask yourself the following questions…
- What else could I or others do?
- What would Richard Branson do?
- What other perspective could I take?
Kill off Choice
We live in a sophisticated, privileged and complex world with many, many options and choices. It’s overwhelming.
The etymology for the -cide in the word decision literally means ‘to cut off’…or ‘to kill off’….think pesticide, suicide, genocide, insecticide. Cutting off choices sounds severe, but is not limiting, it’s liberating, freeing you from the curse of endless choices.
First list your options then connect back with your desired outcomes and bigger picture goals, and try to reduce the options to a maximum of 3…or less.
Hypothesise and experiment
Your brain is not designed for, nor good at, absolutes. When you’re thinking, your entire brain network is firing in complex ways with no simple ‘off switch. The concept of stop, start and continue is more difficult than you think, the stop and start bit in particular.
Your brain loves to stay in it’s comfort zone because that is both non-threatening, and therefore energy efficient, both of which are of vital importance to your brain.
One way to overcome this is to adopt an experimental mindset – like a hypothesis. After gaining clarity, investigating the options, killing off choice, and connecting the most useful option to the desired outcome, you can then articulate the experiment that you (and possibly your team) are about to enter into.
“I have decided that we should ….my thinking behind that decision is …..l expect the outcome to be….but let’s treat it like an experiment and review it in two weeks to see if it has been the right decision”
Pressure off…brain happy…you can move on to the next decision knowing that it’s not an absolute and reducing the risk of failure and humiliation.
Michelle will be one of many speakers at our upcoming Sydney Conference on the 5th October 2017. Book Now to hear Michelle and many other specialists in their respective fields discuss attributes of successful leaders at this full day event.