On Decision-Making

Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, once mused with humor: “Informed decision-making comes from a long tradition of guessing and then blaming others for inadequate results.”  Great leaders realize that great decisions are the cornerstones of great changes and great accomplishments. In a recent Forbes post, Ask Great Questions: Leadership Skills Of Socrates, Michael Lindenmayer, entrepreneur, shared his ideas on how to become great a making good decisions.

    • QUEST FOR THE BEST ANSWERS – “Remember that your goal is to find the best answer; not to give the best one you have,” Ray Dalio.
    • BE HUMBLE: ADMIT YOU DON’T KNOW – You need to check your ego at the door when you go to work. It gets in the way of finding the best answers. Once your ego is checked, you can be humble and admit when you do not know the answer. The sooner we admit we do not have the answer at hand, the sooner we put our energies towards finding the answer.
    • BUILD STAMINA: GET A BRAIN WORK OUT – Most people can handle a few questions before they experience cognitive overload. In other words, their brain freezes and they experience emotional fatigue. Too many questions with too few answers kicks in the flight response. People can shut down. The good news is that people can build up their stamina so that they can handle more questions. The best way to do this is the work the brain out like a muscle. Think of it as the same as any gym work out. Engage. Rest. Recover. You will get stronger and better at asking questions and engaging in the quest for answers.
    • EMPOWER EVERYONE – Want to unleash the potential of your team? Yes? Then you will have to ask questions and be up for questing for the best answers.
    • CONCENTRATE – If you want good answers, you need to concentrate on getting them. Our brains are splintered by multitasking.  Stanford Professor Clifford Nass’s research showcases how multitasking both reduces the speed of decision making as well as the quality of the decisions generated.
    • QUESTIONS FOR THE THREE P’S -The three P’s are: possibilities, probabilities and priorities. These three are sequentially linked. Apply different questions to the different categories. Certain questions generate possibilities. Other questions sharpen the team’s ability to assess the probable outcome of potential decisions. The third set of questions help empower team members to prioritize. While Socrates engaged in philosophical dialogues over long periods of time, you have a venture to run. And that means taking action. Learn to apply different questions to the three P’s; it will help advance your endeavor.
    • KNOW THYSELF – Having a Socratic culture is great. It also means everyone should embrace the Socratic ideal to “Know Thyself.” Before tossing questions in every direction, make sure to ask yourself questions first. Get great at thinking through issues. This way you can ask quality questions. It also shows respect to everyone on the team. It demonstrates that you value their time, input and energy because you cared enough to think through the issue at hand prior to enlisting them in a specific quest.

Great decision-making is about engaging others – encouraging and respecting their ideas, selflessness to one’s own ideas, exploring possibilities (love those three P’s) and focusing on finding the best answer.  It is about bringing out the best in others and ourselves in pursuit of that answer. Yes, as Lindenmayer says: Know thyself.  Great leaders realize this, yet also remember the words of playwright Oscar Wilde:  “’Know Thyself’ was written over the portal of the antique world. Over the portal of the new world, ‘Be Thyself’ shall be written.”  It will be the truly great leaders who lead and serve people in making truly great decisions.

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