How often do you throw all your cards up in the air and re-sort them in a new order? I’m going through that right now. Due to a much increased work load (all good) I’m rethinking where I put my time and attention. Obligations, burdens, previously fun stuff, the “of course I’ll do that” responses, are all being put under the microscope as part of reevaluating priorities.
How often do you go through this exercise? I’m hearing a lot of discussion about this from friends and colleagues who are struggling with children’s needs, having their last kid leave for college, coping with their health or a loved one’s health….. It seems that when big things change in our lives, we are forced to reevaluate priorities. I’m also hearing this in subtler ways. Whispers about the amount of stress, the traffic, the joy in living becoming strained, no time for little moments, spouses being neglected.
In a business, this comes up most often as too many meetings, too many emails, hours that are too long and not creative or productive. We don’t get out of this without some rethinking.
In order to rethink, I have to start from the big picture: What do I want? Where do I want to be in 3 years? What will I have to give up to get to the big goals? What do I have to put in place especially new habits, better processes, clearer focus to get what I want.
Barbara Bush was quoted this week as saying: “You have two choices in life; you can either like what you do or dislike what you do. I have chosen to like what I do.” It may not be that easy for most of us. But it is worth considering.
How can you set yourself up for a great week? What activities do you need to delegate or push off to stay focused on the big picture?
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This week the federal reserve raised interest rates again making them the highest they have been since 2008. The President just directed the US trade representative to level tariffs on about $50 billion worth of Chinese imports; this is in addition to the steel and aluminum tariffs recently imposed. If you use steel in manufacturing, the prices have already gone up.
Are you raising prices, too? >
The steel and aluminum tariffs to be imposed in 2 weeks are a shining example of how decision making from the top creates winners and losers that may have truly unpleasant consequences. >
Elon Musk of Tesla gave an interview in 2014 where he said “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”*
As a business leader, people who report to you must always consider how far they are willing to go to be honest versus how much does keeping their job mean to them. Haha, you say, not my team. Perhaps that is true. Assume it is not for this discussion.
Your good friends may also know where you could improve, yet they want to stay friends so they encourage you. They mask direct suggestions in words like “have you ever considered?” or “what would happen if this scenario occurred….”. When you swat that away, they change the conversation to sports or the movie they just saw.
If you see yourself even the slightest bit here, I suggest that you change the way you bring ideas to the team. In his book, Conversational Capacity, Craig Weber suggests that when you float a new idea, you ask your team to give you 3 reasons why it won’t work. Get the objections out on the floor immediately. You will retrain your team over time to have a more robust discussion of ideas. Better results will likely follow.
As for your friends, ask for one thing you could do better, then work on it and report back. Just a slight change to your golf swing, or your position on the ski slope can make a huge difference. Why aren’t we doing it at work?
This week ask for one suggestion from someone whose opinion you value and then work on it. Assume you are wrong. Wouldn’t that be different?
*Inc interview with Elon Musk
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While I was speaking with an executive this week, he complained that his team regularly asks him to make decisions for them. He doesn’t want to do that. He has a process. He asks them to:
- name the three best alternatives they have considered.
- explain their thinking.
- tell him which one they think is the best.
Usually, they can say which one is the best. And? They still don’t do it.
Why is that? One of the most important things an executive has to do is make decisions. Make many decisions. We assume that making decisions is something that distinguishes leaders. Still, we have no training in making decisions other than the school of hard knocks. So, as we promote our way to being executives, we come up with templates like T squares with one side for pros and one side for cons. Then we weigh the items on each side and see which has the higher value. Or we analyze the probability of success and failure for each option. All good ways to get to a decision.
In Vistage, we talk about making better decisions. We dig down into the emotions behind each choice. We dig into the assumptions of why that choice is a good one. We examine the beliefs behind the choices. You must get down to the beliefs that are keeping you from making a decision. You will not change your behavior unless the beliefs they are based on change.
Let me make it easier: Look at the cost in time and hours of not making a decision. The higher the cost, the more you need to make a decision. Even a relatively safe decision that you think has an 80% probability of success still has a 20% chance of failure. Sometimes, you just have to take a risk.If you are still struggling, a good question to ask is “by when should this decision be made?” If you have a month, you can put it aside and let your subconscious noodle it around. If it should have been yesterday, or a year ago you can’t put it aside.
The nasty bottom line is that even the best decisions may result in failure. Don’t let desire for perfection keep you from making the decision. Give it your best shot and move on.
What is one decision that you have been putting off? Get to it this week!
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