The Anatomy of a Choice

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Photo by the Author

Stephen Covey once said there were three constants in life: Change, Principles, and Choice. The underlying idea of his works was to help others match the right kinds of choices, to their personal vision, mission or governing value network. In doing that we could derive effectiveness in the variety of roles in our lives.

Yet for most of us, choice is the hardest variable. In today’s highly information driven society with its infinite number of personal choices we could make, choices are hard. Even if we have carefully crafted our personal mission, values and roles in our lives, choices are hard, especially when there are competing ones. Beyond this, is how there are so many issues that act on us. Even important roles can collide, and choices can be difficult.

Beyond these challenges is the fact that we can make a choice, but to follow through and see the choice through takes fortitude. The hardest part of a choice may not be the competing nature of paths we can take, but the bridge that needs crossed to implement the choice.

How many people have you met that make good intentional commitments or indicate verbally their intentions toward a choice, but fall short doing the choice? Probably everyone, including ourselves. It is very popular to make the choice, and it feels good because of the perceived accomplishment. The accomplishment of a choice is however the most important and critical step in any choice. Everyone can have good intentions when it is needed (see my article on “Organizational Codependency” elsewhere on this site). Making the choice stick is completely a different animal.

The Anatomy of a Choice

    When you’re planning to make a choice, consider the following elements:

    1. How realistically can I implement the choice?
    2. How many new steps will my choice make for me?
    3. The choice feels good, but doing the choice is like moving against a strong wind.
    4. How much work is involved in this choice?
    5. Who can help me get there, once I have made the choice.

    Of course the above sounds a lot like goals. A preferred definition of choice might be: What behaviors do I need to do? Choice are thoughts, but the behavior portion transitions the choice into action. Using the word goals is about as vague as choice. Without the operationalized behavioral steps and actions, movement will not occur. The anatomy of a choice is often a road to travel itself. It is also a lifelong pursuit of becoming and direction finding in your life.

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Necessity Creates Focus

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The need to make change is often driven by necessity. In the worse case, a crisis may develop that creates the necessity to change. For some, without something pressing down on us, the movement toward necessary change could be delayed.

Ways that focus is delayed:
1.) We choose to avoid what is necessary

2.) To focus suggests that we have to take personal responsibility. We choose to deflect or blame others.

3.) We cover up the priority or necessity by focusing on things that don’t matter.

A necessity can either be a bother or an activating experience where progress is made. It is based on how we choose to proceed. A necessity can transform, or further debilitate, depending on how we approach problems. In the end, the choice is ours. Do we wish to transform ourselves and use our focus, or do we seek to avoid or deny the things necessary in our lives?

The Power of A Question

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Photo by the Author

When teams function best is when individual team members dare to ask questions of their leaders. To challenge indicates a commitment toward engagement, and a willingness to connect to the organization’s vision.

Questions suggest team engagement because:

1. It means the individual team member cares enough about their individual contribution.

2. Questions indicate that a team contributor is interested in doing rather than complaining.

3. New ideas might be imbedded in the question.

4. Through a question, the process of learning is occurring.

A leader should be very concerned with their team when people stop asking questions. It means that a member’s commitment is waning, a team member is not engaged with the vision, or the leader’s direction lacks clarity.

The worse case scenario when questioning is abandoned – is a sort of complacency where mediocrity is accepted and the program becomes a drifting entity.

Managers and leaders ought to encourage and welcome thoughtful questions by their teams. It’s the most reliable indicator regarding the health of an organization or program, including the teams that compose those areas.

Leading Change Through the Barrier of Doubt

Proposing a change almost always leads to some measure of doubt. Be prepared with your “thick skin”, because where there is something new, there is likely someone out there to doubt your vision.

Envisioning the future is not a comfortable endeavor for some, for the following reasons:
1. It requires others on your team to see what you see.

2. Seeing something new, means that some discomfort might need to be tolerated.

3. Sometimes a vision requires working through ambiguity.

4. Someone doesn’t share the same values. They don’t see what you see.

5. The need for control is high between individual team members. Collaboration is low.

Matter of fact, doubt is the opposite of possibility. Often the doubt is a way of adding a “rational reason” to why something won’t work, when there is likely little evidence that it wouldn’t work.

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Photo by: Brian E. Dick

Working through your vision to its conclusion requires the tenacity to take risks in the face of doubt. Knowing that doubt is a cousin to “fear of change”,and that ambiguity is the foundation to creating success, sticking with your plans and principles is the way to work through external doubt.

Ways to work though doubts:

1. Build a team that shares the same value for the change

2. Base your vision on clear principles

3. Accept your detractors – there will always be detractors…

4. Accept the ambiguity between the vision and the planned outcome.

Each step toward the planned outcome of your vision should actually strengthen your resolve to change and over time lessen the doubt that comes from external sources.