Joseph Badaracco, in HBR’s September ‘16 edition, rightly points out that “our toughest calls come in the grey areas”. You’ve done all you can to gather the facts, and appreciate all points of view but are still not sure what to do.
You might be deciding if the job offer you received yesterday is the right move for you? or wrestling with whether to give your employee a low performance rating? or debating with your partner whether to confiscate the smart phone from your child?
The author refers to our judgement as a “fusion of our thinking, feelings, experience, imagination and character”. But how can we marshal these facets together to create the best decision we can make?
There are five key questions we can ask ourselves – as a typically logical decision maker, these questions have already guided me towards better and clearer decision making on some key aspects of my year ahead: I thank the author for this gift.
- What are the net, net consequences of all my options? – it’s not about what I should do but what could I do. Not to create a cost benefit statement but to think broadly, deeply, concretely, imaginatively and objectively about the full impact of my choices. And maybe to brainstorm these with people who are different to me to help me out.
- What are my core obligations? – each human being having responsibilities to another. Using my “moral imagination” and stepping out of my normal decision-making pathways to consider biases, blind spots, other’s viewpoints and truly stepping into another’s shoes.
- See the world as it is, not how I would like it to be but as it is. “We don’t live in a predictable, calm environment populated with virtuous people. Much of what happens is beyond our control”. So, what can we achieve? What is most likely to work? How can I be opportunistic? How can I be most resilient? It isn’t a cop-out, it’s prudent risk-taking and creativity brought to bear.
- Who are we? – seeing our decision in the context of our relationships, values and norms. What are your defining stories and ideals to which you are committed? What are you struggling to achieve and what are the outcomes you are trying to avoid? The author points out that you shouldn’t start with this insider perspective… even though it’s tempting. We need to counterbalance our tendency to take care of our self and our own, and ask this question after taking a more outsider perspective. I love this mind-set shift.
- Living with it – thinking and feeling that it’s the best decision you can make. Sleep on it and ask yourself in the morning … can I live with it?…as I explain my decision to my partner, am I still OK with it?…as I write it out in a letter or email, am I content and happy to commit to it?
I hope, as you’ve read my take on this article, that you’ve found doors opening which might take you down new avenues to help you to make your toughest decisions.
In the end, you may still feel that your decision has its risks but if you have asked, and answered (honestly), these questions then you can’t go far wrong.