Is It Reasonable? Is It Responsible? A Decision Making Model

How do you make decisions? Using intuition, a feeling, or temporary mood? Many people are often searching for simple ways to evaluate whether they are making good decisions. There are many ways to make decisions:

1. Through sheer experience…we have years of know how.
2. Through educated guessing
3. Empirical models, data, spreadsheets, statistics.
4. Others’ opinions, ideas, views.
5. Concrete skills

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Often there is no clear cut guideline, and practices may vary at different points. I have found that making so called “value decisions” where our decision affects others should consider two tangiblle principles:

Is it reasonable? Is it responsible? In this case, “it” refers to something that should be acted upon, addressed, or it could be a sensitive personal decision. Many times using these principles can be simply used to evalulate our own logic around a matter that is not clear cut, for example:

A decision needs to be made about a human resource matter. It involves a real person, her future, or her role in the organization. There are many concrete pieces of evidence for and against a chosen course, however the executive continues to go in mental circles trying to weigh each, until no clear decision can be made. It is a dilemma, one that cannot be easily determined. There are certainly evidence for moving this person into another position, but still other barriers and issues that could be created in the process. What should the executive do?

Evaluate each variable in terms of its reasonableness, and responsibleness
Simply asking the question as to whether one variable is reasonable, and responsible is a good starting point to get clarity and to center the decision on something principle centered. The answer will not be arbitary, but likely connect with deeper, and more important considerations. The leader’s own logic as to how the decision is made, can also be evaluated using these two concepts. It brings clarity, where ambiguity initially resided.

The next time you’re stuck with a problem, question the possible options in terms of their reasonableness, and whether they are responsible. You might be surprised how appropriate the conclusions you arrive at clear up your thinking about the problem.

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Problem Solving: Your Key Strategic Advantage

In today’s society problems move quickly, and there are many choices that need to be made – often quickly. Building a brand, product, or providing a service is not only about the quality and the relationship, but it is also about the value and outcome or experience derived from the user. An important individual and organizational skill is how problems and dilemmas are solved, along with the outcomes achieved.

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Different Types of Problem Solving:
Problem solving is a combined integration of the experiencing, thinking and behaving aspect of our activity. Rather than look at the psychological theory, it might be more helpful to look at the practical approaches to problem solving.

1.) Look at the ways that have worked before. Over time, we may have drifted away from workable practices, and drifted from tried and true ways. When considering a problem, consider ways that have worked before. Adapt the new solution along the same lines.

2.) Consider ways that have not been tried.

3.) What are the alternatives…look for “exceptions” that might provide clues to solving the dilemma differently. “This product works, except________when this occurs.”

4.) What can be removed from the situation? Often times, we only consider solving the problem with the current variables. What would happen if we removed a variable. That variable might be the barrier keeping the solution obscured.

5.) What could be added? Would it create a different outcome? Remember that adding indiscriminately might add to the problem.

These are not exhaustive, but starting points to pull apart the problem into manageable elements. What might seem an exercise in Algebra, it is really not. The adage of “thinking out of the box” really is a limit to true problem solving because it doesn’t specify an approach, only a mindset. Try these techniques on your next organizational problem or interpersonal problem.

The Four Elements of Commitment to Change

Any kind of change or development requires implementation. Change is hardest for several reasons, and often requires constant effort and determination to see it through. The hardest changes require an enduring commitment, which is often easy to state but hard to do.

Commitment is the state of being where we do what we say. There is more to it however…

1. Purpose: The first component of commitment to a change is the why. Some ‘whys’ may match your intended change and others may not. Your purpose to a change is the meaning behind the change. In a sense it can be your mission to do what you seek to do.

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2. Sacrifice: Any change means that you have to do something to make it happen. This is often the hardest part of any commitment, because you have to go to a different level or experience different things to make headway. Making sacrifices means that you might have to give up something less important or more indulgent to make the change. Sacrificing is not merely a cognitive exercise. Rather, it is the doing behind the change.

3. Promise: A close component to making a sacrifice is the personal choice to maintain the commitment or change. This is where the long road toward the change begins and continues. This is where you’re in it for the long hall. You’re not turning back, or regressing into old behaviors. If you do, then you will need to recommit or make new promises, and new sacrifices to regain your direction.

4. Payoff: This is the fruit of your labor. For today’s crowd, we are often looking for instant payoff. This is usually not the case in real life. Anything that has a solid and important purpose, does not often happen overnight. It requires ongoing sacrifice, continued promises to yourself to get where you want to be.

Making change does involve commitment, but commitment requires more than the verbal or cognitive desires, choices and intent. It is a recurrent process of ongoing involvement in the change. Consider these steps as you are mapping out your next change effort.

Learning to Follow Before You Lead

There is no limit to the information available on leadership. It is a popular topic, and one that garners a substantial volume of perspectives, advice and suggestions. What is less apparent is the lack of literature on how to be good follower, or even more how learning to become a good leader in some way is predicated on learning to become a good follower. (Credit to: David Carpenter for bringing this to my attention via a Twitter discussion one evening several months ago @dave_carpenter)

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The world of management and leadership embraces the team, the manager, or the leader. It takes for granted that leaders will have good followers, but there has been little discussion or attention on how being a good leader might require you to learn how to follow. What do we mean here?

Characteristics of Following
Learning to follow means that you will have some humility. It also requires that you are able to work well with others, and are willing to use influence, rather than resistance with others. For some, it means developing an openness to others, willingness to accept differences, and to trust others. Where else do we obtain those critical leadership skills than by learning to follow and model after others in leadership positions?

Following means you seek to be mentored. Many reporting relationships in organizations are seen as a requirement, not a privilege. For any number of reasons, “the boss” is something that needs to be endured rather than honored and appreciated. There are circumstances where those in leadership positions are ill suited, and instead of mentoring, they create fear, avoidance, or simply disdain with the followers. Still others in the following role are unfortunate to have bad mentors. Leaders need to remember that in many cases their example is the early learning for the next generation. Poor leaders create poor followers, that develop poor orientations.

Following is a privilege. Those that follow should consider their role as a stewardship, and one that can breath life into their futures. Instead of viewing the leader with disdain or as something to be endured, even the most difficult boss can have something to teach. If you’re fortunate to have good mentors or leaders, then this can provide solid orientations, for the future ahead. Following a leader is not just an obligation required by policy, it is way to add critical meaning to your chosen life work.

To become a good leader, you need to first become a good follower. It’s like learning math: You have to complete algebra before trigonometry. Becoming a leader is something that you gain from embracing a solid following role. There is a learning path, and those that embrace richness from a good leader can surely enable themselves to replicate the solid leadership values and approaches that have been bestowed.

The Obstacle of ‘All or Nothing’ Thinking

A part of the human condition is that we are all mistake capable. No one is really perfect, although it is healthy to strive for the best, and improve our results. How we go about that is often driven by the way we look at problems, and how we view “things” and our “relationships”

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The biggest obstacle often is ourselves. Humans have a tendency of seeking that things will always work out smoothly, and naturally, and we attempt to avoid pain and discomfort. That is how we’re wired. A problem arises when we are attempting to solve problems. Sometimes we develop an “either-or” mentality and miss the larger picture. We develop all or nothing thinking, there is no middle ground.

“A project team is trying to meet a deadline. Time is critical, and the deadline is looming. The senior manager seeks that the team approach the problem in a particular way, but gives the team little authority to look at alternatives to solving the problem. The problem solution has already been given, but the ‘how’ to do it, has not been determined. It would be easy for the team to adopt one polarized approach to meet the expectation. In their haste, they get a result, but failed to look at alternatives. The senior manager has scripted the team to limited options, and an all or nothing attitude develops, and key alternatives that might bring better results are missed.”

Sometimes the pursuit for the solution, and the will to demand a solution obscures one’s ability to consider options, a lot of them. When we look at things or relationships in dichotomous categories we basically shove everything else off to the side. We miss important options, ideas, and most of all straight jacket ourselves or team.

Individuals with life problems adopt the same “all or nothing” filter – which in the end keeps them from looking at all aspects that could bring potential solutions. It’s global thinking, but the global part means that everything is considered in the same way. Often times it is better to think in terms of possibilities rather than hard core givens.

Ways of avoiding the “all or nothing” mindset:
1. Frame problems as likely having many “approximate” not perfect alternatives.
2. Learn to evaluate all your alternatives, finding evidence for and against each one.
3. Understand that the world isn’t always the same.
4. Performance is about progress and moving forward, not exact perfection.

All or nothing thinking is an obstacle, but it is also very changeable. As long as you’re willing to consider that things in the world are not always perfect, you can consider that there are likely many explanations to problems you face on an individual, team or organizational level.

The Pitfalls of Creating Dependence in Your Team

There is a difference between helping and creating dependence…In your team.

Helping implies getting someone to a different level so they can support themselves on their own two feet.

Creating dependence implies not letting others in your team soar on their own.

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Some teams are run by leaders that only know how to create dependence in their teams. What appears to be helping, in the long run is merely control. Having control of a team squelches their best efforts to succeed. It is a recipe to failure, but the secondary gain is with the person creating all the dependency in the team. Creating dependency in others is like telling your team not to perform. Creating dependence in the team, takes the following traits:

1. The team can’t move because the leader requires them not to think. Instead they are given the directives what to do.
2. The leader has reached the limit of their skill. Their insecurity is such a problem that controlling and creating dependence is the only way they can keep from losing control.
3. The leader is so disengaged and their unit is drifting.
4. Creating dependence in their team members feels good to the one in charge, and gives them a false sense of self.
5. Creating dependence hides the leader’s ineptness.

Creating dependence in others we work with looks like helping, but it is only a projection of the leader’s weakness, and lack of capacity. It is a unit killer.

The effects on the team are enormous. Skepticism, under-functioning, and second-guessing becomes common place. If they don’t collude with the co-dependence, then it is seen as non-compliance. The biggest issue is the loss in capacity, initiative and creativity. What could be a healthy and developing business unit, ends up being a mediocre unit.

Creating dependence in others is not helping, and it’s purpose is usually to meet the needs of the person creating the dependence in others.

  • Indicators that there is a culture of dependence in your organization:
  • 1. People are leaving
    2. Attitude or productivity problems
    3. Staff is not following policy
    4. Dishonesty
    5. Entitlement mentality in staff
    6. Gross disconnection with the values and cross company goals
    7. Frustration, lack of vision

    Helping rather than creating dependence implies that the manager is guiding rather than controlling their team. It also implies that everyone is responsible for the results and is accountable at the same time. It is about getting there, and not about one person trying to meet their needs at the expense of others or the organization.

    In what ways do you see dependency creeping into the culture of your organization?

    Do you help and get out of the way, or create a dependency where others see you as the center –

    Giving and Getting – Team Dynamics

    A pervasive dynamic in the workplace and with teams is the concept of “getting or giving”.

    Getting: Is the outcome of what can I get from the organization. What’s in it for me.

    Giving: What talents and abilities do I bring to the organization? What do I give to receive?

    Teams and groups of employees often fail because:
    1. There is really not a team. It is a utilitarian view: What do ‘I’ get if ‘I’ do this, or that…
    2. Everyone on the team is not held accountable using the same rules or expectations.
    3. Oversight, or management is too afraid to confront inconsistencies.

    The Getters tend to participate in teams where the above dynamics are present. They continue to get, but fly under the radar or escape reasonable scrutiny for the results. I have seen this dynamic present since MBA business school. It is a part of the human condition.

    The Givers are the silent producers, rarely complaining, but producing the results. After a while, the Getters rely on the Givers, and the team eventually suffers. It can be a very frustrating experience for the Givers in the organization, but more importantly, it can render the leadership more vulnerable and in a position where they have enabled the Getters – making it harder to address.

    Teams will always have both types of members. The job of the leader or manager is to address the situation more immediately so as to avoid the vulnerabilities it produces in the team. The following steps may prove helpful:

    1. Approach all members with the same expectations. Set appropriate limits when it becomes apparent that some members are under-functioning at the expense of others.

    2. Be honest, avoid unholy alliances with one team member or members over others. Avoiding mis-steps by a deviant member will not make the problem go away. Addressing it honestly upfront, is the best strategy.

    3. If you have policies and expectations, use them. As a leader your job is to get ahead of the problem, not wait until it manifests into something more difficult to solve later on. Team members who are Getters, will not give up their behavior until it is directly addressed. Remember the team has a purpose, and it is not to give an advantage of one member over the organizational objective.

    Can you identify the dynamic of Getting over Giving in your organization?

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    Time Wasting

    This would appear to be a straight forward title, and obvious problem, hardly worthy of a blog post. It would seem that way, but no matter how much I read or see about time management, a subtle problem remains for many an ongoing issue, due to external and internal experiences

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    Key Time Wasters
    External time wasting relates to the situations and experiences we encounter that we did not directly create, but invariably impact us, because they are demanding our time, interrupt or disrupt. There are several reasons for this, but the key items tend to be:
    1. Over-extending ourselves for situations that do not match directly with key objectives.
    2. Not saying “no” (double negative intended) to unimportant things.
    3. Failing to be assertive with others, and therefore letting the unimportant intrude on the important.

    Internal time wasters include:
    1. Not having enough personal discipline to do the things that are best.
    2. Choosing things that are not substantive to devote ourselves.
    3. Spending inordinate amounts of time obsessing over needless details that add no value.
    4. Not having the confidence to initiate our own course. Letting other things dictate this.

    As you can see, the time wasting concept is a deeper issue, and sequential in nature. It is not just a matter of choosing unproductive things in our lives, or being lazy. Many very capable people, who have a capacity and willingness for good action, often fall into traps where they find themselves experiencing lost time. Just because you relax, does not mean that is wasting time. The point is whether the activity is serving a higher purpose, improving capacity, outcomes, or your personal guiding line. You have to decide this, based upon important values, ideals, and goals. Time wasting can be minimized, if we decide to take action.

    Letting Go – Reducing the Unnecessary in your life

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    A common problem that I often encounter in the behavioral health clinic these days is the difficulty that others have to let go or move beyond emotional blockages to growth. Typically, these are a root cause of the anxiety, stress overload, and depression that generally presents as the problem. Non-clinical populations also exhibit the common problem of letting go, and may never manifest all the symptoms that lead to presentation for treatment. It appears that cultural conditioning, the social mirror, and the myriad of expectations both internal and external contribute to the problem.

    Today, there are many, many influences in our lives. Some of them are simply taking up emotional and mental space, and thus need to be cleared, so we can focus on the most important things in our lives.

    In the business and organizational world, the problem of letting go, is pervasive. In our driven world steep in high expectations, and underlying demands – both internal to the person and from others, it is sometimes a hidden problem that keeps us hostage to the things that we can simply let go of.

    The problem is widespread, but like a computer CPU, we need a little soft reset, and that requires us to delete a few “unnecessary files” in our brains, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. The work required on a personal level goes well beyond the suggestions here. There is often a journey required to let go of unnecessary issues, feelings, thoughts or behaviors. The items below are a sampling of things that may be key things to “let go”:

    1. Personal slights
    2. Old mistakes, guilt, shame
    3. Unmet expectations
    4. Current mistakes (what can we learn from them?)
    5. Difficult personalities
    6. Relationships – both personal and professional that are dragging us down
    7. Excessive spending, poor diet, self-sabotaging habits
    8. The past – which does not add positive memories

    These of course, are not exhaustive. But you get the point. The concept to remember is that: The items above are preventing positive movement ahead. They are holding us hostage emotionally, behavioral, or through our thinking patterns. They are dulling our senses.

      Beginning steps to letting go of the unnecessary can include the following:

    1. Identify what needs to be let go – Is it a thought, behavior, or a change in your job?

    2. Ask yourself: What impact on my life will this make? Why is it important to let go?

    3. Identify your support system. Create an accountability system that can support you through the changes that will occur once something is changed. More difficult things to let go – require more support. Supports can be personal and professional. Perhaps consulting with a trusted colleague.

    4. Stressors, personal slights, negative cognitions, require more fortitude. It may require us to stop our negative thoughts, change a self-sabotaging behavior, or simply apologize to someone and rebuild a relationship.

    Finally, consider the enormous payoff you will feel and experience when you let go of unnecessary things and situations in your life that weigh you down. Sometimes thoughts about the prospective payoff can be very motivating to make the change. Having deeper values and mission about the why, will help drive you toward how and what of any change you make.

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