Make (Better) Decisions by Slowing Down
Manage episode 328101093 series 3339091
How do you strike the perfect balance between jumping to a conclusion too quickly or missing out on an opportunity? I want to share some observations on the importance of slowing down to make sound strategic decisions.
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Brought to you by ALYGN Organizational Consulting
Lowney, C., 2021. Make Better Decisions: Slow Down If The Lion Isn’t Coming. [online] Forbes. Available at: [Accessed 29 April 2022].
McCartney, C. et al., 2022. An update on flexible and hybrid working practices | CIPD. [online] CIPD. Available at: [Accessed 29 April 2022].
Weir, K., 2020. Nurtured by nature. [online] https://www.apa.org. Available at: [Accessed 29 April 2022].
Welcome to Pity Party Over the podcast for people teams and organizations seeking practical ideas for results in greater happiness. I'm your host, Stephen Matin. Let's pause, learn and move on. Pity party over is brought to you by ALYGN, A L Y G N dot company.
Hi everyone I'm Stephen, how are you? I hope you're doing great wherever you are in the world. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Pity Party Over that is dedicated to decision making.
This episode of pity Party Over doesn't want to be an all inclusive recipe on how to make great decisions. Decision making is one of those topics that is largely investigated. Virtually every single day I noticed new articles, new studies are conducted on decision making. And decision making is quite complex. There are many ingredients that come into. So there are a lot of facets that we need to consider and what I want to do with this episode. I would like to share just some observations on how managers and leaders make decisions, and also I would like to point out some of the challenges that I see them facing on a daily basis as they try to make good decisions. And then I would like to point out a couple of things that I hope I'm going to help you out making better decisions.
The reason why decision making is quite complex these days has to do a lot with change. We live lives that are super complicated, in which realistically it only takes the tweet of someone to change markets, for opportunities to arise for troubles to come up. And so one of the questions that I receive a lot from clients is what is the right pace of decision making, meaning how fast or how slow should I go in making those decisions? How do you strike the perfect balance between a jump into a conclusion too quickly or maybe not doing it fast enough and so I'm going to miss an opportunity.
And so as I often do when a research for my episodes of Pity Party Over, I came across an article written by Chris Lowney, I hope I'm pronouncing his last name correctly. Chris is the best selling book author. He wrote this article in 2021 on Forbes, which I really love, it is “Called make better decisions slow down if the lion isn't coming.” I really like Chris’ article because it contains a lot of interesting points about decision making. He writes beautifully, you know, very clearly, very to the point, so I'm going to put in the notes of this episode all the information that you need if you want to read the article and definitely do it because it's really cool.
There are a couple of points that Chris makes in the article that I found really interesting. The first one is the impact of the organizational culture on how people make decisions and specifically Chris points out the dangers for managers in macho corporate cultures that regard decisive and fast as the synonyms.
So this one pertains specific cultures, organizational cultures, in which if I do not come across as decisive, self assured, but then I may not be a good leader and for sure many situations we have to do just that we have to make swift decisions but in other instances that could lead it to big big big disasters.
So we do know how perceptions are important in ... when we work, you know we are constantly seen by the people, how we come across, it is absolutely vital and so what Chris also does in the article, it points out the opposite of moving too fast which is moving too slow and he says that it's really important for professionals to cultivate the courage to make timely decisions and to avoid what he defines analysis paralysis, which can happen very easily when to give an example,
you don't have enough time to make a decision, you are urged to make the decision, you may not have all the data that you would like to have to make the decision and as a result you freak out.
So that's also another problem that can lead it two more issues. So this dichotomy between fast and slow Chris writes really nicely, he says, bottom line “Some of us habitually go fast precisely when we should be slowing down and vice versa,” so it really is a balance between the two. It just depends when I'm supposed to go fast and when I'm supposed to go slow.
Now how we make decisions is not just a matter of personal preference, personality, what my behavior is, but can also be explained by understanding more deeply some of the mechanics of our brain. A lot of information pertaining decision making comes from neuroscience. So neuroscience is the study of the nervous system and neuroscience. These past 20 years have advanced a lot because of the magnetic resonance imaging which is the M.R.I. So you might have taken M.R.I. when you injure yourself. So M.R.I. are these big scans, you know, they look like pipes, tubes in which a specialist puts you through. Essentially through a magnetic field they are able to create a visual mapping of your internal organs. And because of M.R.I. we know quite a bit about the brain. We know that based on external stimuli, you know, what happens to different regions of the brain.
In its most um simple explanation in terms of how we interpret reality, how we make decisions, our brain essentially constantly compares what's happening to us in the present moment with anything that has acquired and stored, you know, from the past.
So all my experiences, all that I went through in the past that represents a database that I use whether I like it or not, consciously or unconsciously, in order to determine what's happening to me in the present moment and to make decisions.
Mostly in Western societies there's still a strong stigma around emotions, what emotions are, whether or not, whether or not it's good to use emotions when you do business because oftentimes being rational, be called be detached is something that is associated with a good decision making and anything that pertains emotions is seen as um dramatic, it is seen as something that somehow would hinder my ability to make decisions.
But for neurosciences, what we know is the fact that the very core of my brain, the so called the limbic system, the engine of my brain is very much my emotional center and these emotional center impacts everything, impacts how I interpret information. It conditions strongly how I respond to those situations and also impacts how I make my decisions.
And you must have heard a term that is really popular right now, a ton of articles have been written about the amygdala. So what is this? Amygdala and how it's connected to the brain. Essentially, the amygdala, there are two, the amygdalae, are two glands almond shaped are really small and they are located at the center of my limbic system, the emotional center.
And so the amygdala is some sort of home security system. It is a mechanism very ancient that really we inherit from our ancestors and essentially every single time I am confronted with a situation that could be dangerous for me, the amygdala fires ,the amygdala activates and what it does it produces a series of events, a cascade of events that produce hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol that flood my system and create a state of alert.
So that's the reason that the amygdala is associated with strong emotions such as stress, anxiety and fear, which are not really that comfortable to feel, but as I said, it's an alarm. It is a system that has been designed to really preserve a life, you know, to to help us surviving.
And our lives have gotten really complicated, definitely way more complicated than the lives that our parents used to live or our grandparents. We live lives in which complexity, change is happening super fast. We're also surrounded by so much negativity, you know, it is fostered by the media, and it doesn't matter of the media outlet that you choose in order to retrieve information, but it really is a litany of anxiety, of negativity that constantly surrounds us.
And so what this one does, um Particularly now, after more than two years of COVID-19 pandemic are our brains, our limbic system or emotional core has been really tried it out, it is really fatigued and more than ever has gotten difficult for people to make decisions and to navigate through all these problems by making the right move that can help the organizations succeed, that can help your life moving forward, you know, for you to grow.
So long story short, what we have learned through neuroscience is the fact that our brain is designed to make snap decisions as a survival mechanism. Um when there's not enough time to weigh all the variables, um to be able to have all the data that I need to have to make good decisions inevitably my brain needs to resort to a lot of unconscious biases as a navigational tool.
So what is an unconscious bias? It is essentially a belief that you harbor towards something, it springs from the past, it springs from your experience is also very often is acquired through cultural conditioning. And the distinctive feature of unconscious biases is the fact that they fall outside our conscious awareness. It's almost like you make a decision without being fully aware of why you're moving, you're reacting the way, and instead good strategic decisions that require complete centeredness, mindfulness that really require tremendous consciousness.
So that is to say that when you are bombarded by so much negativity, when emotionally you feel extremely tired, when for work you move at a light speed, making quick decisions may be the perfect recipe for disasters. And I'm not saying that every single decision takes a long time to be made, but now more than ever we need to be mindful. We need to probably slow down to be able to make the perfect decision.
With that said another factor that has impacted tremendously our decision making from my point of view is the so called hybrid working practices and what I mean by I mean I'm referring to the discussion that's been going on since the explosion of the Covid pandemic or whether people are more effective working from home or working at the office.
So one thing that I've noticed throughout the pandemic is the fact that the lives of a lot of professionals have gotten even faster. The amount of activities, tasks people have to deal with has literally exploded. That is mostly the result in many cases of people of not knowing exactly how to work from home, a lot of people simply did not have the digital mindset and very often unfortunately, several organizations did not deploy any program to help people transitioning from working at the office to work in a home.
The one thing that I kept hearing from clients during the pandemic was how difficult it was to work from home, although they are clearly, you know, huge advantages, a lot of people did not have to commute. Also, there are less amount of distractions which can foster productivity.
The one complaint that I heard the most was the fact that working from home, you feel detached, you don't have your colleagues right there. So it may become in many instances a very lonesome type of activity.
Going back to our decision making um discussion, one ingredient that is really important for decision making is the flow of ideas when you have a multiple perspectives coming into place that gives you a nice um ground to make those decisions, to weigh options, and now they were coming off two years of pandemic the one thing that I hear a lot from people is, oh my God now I have to go back to the office now that I got adjusted, I got used to working from home. I finally enjoyed the advantages of working from home. Now I have to readjust myself and going back to the way things used to be.
So there's um a nice a couple of nice reports that I put in the notes of this podcast that point out to the website of the CIPD. CIPD stands for Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. And for those of you who do not know CIPD is the most important organization in the UK for human resources.
What's really cool about these two reports is the fact that CIPD points out how the pandemic has shifted our working practices towards what they call a hybrid model, which essentially can be managed by using some days in the office as some days at home. So these two modalities can be complementary. It's not a matter of which one works best, which of the two may produce better productivity and also decision making. But I found really interesting, the fact that every single person is different. Every professional is different, um we are not the same people every single day, our energy, you know shift from day to day.
And so by finding the right modulation between these two settings, that's when we created the right circumstances for us to work at our best, something that didn't exist before, you know, before our life was completely in the office and then during the pandemic, we were forced in lockdown. But if there's one thing really interesting that we learned from the pandemic is the fact that every person requires a customized approach on how to work. Some people enjoy to spend more time in the office, some people enjoyed instead of working at home. So these two components can be very depending on our needs.
One of the things that I've seen a lot this past, I would say two years, 2.5 years in a lot of managers and leaders is the so called “busyness,” which is basically the assumption that if you have a lot of stuff to do that you need to go faster. You know, if I go faster, I get more stuff done and this one, it may be completely counterintuitive, but realistically, if you go faster doesn't make you necessarily more effective.You may be under the impression and getting more done. But what can actually do, it can create just a state of increased anxiety and fatigue, which from the point of your decision making definitely is not the best scenario to find yourself in moving frantically from one task to the next, having a lot on your plate.
Sometimes what I've noticed leads to pursuing a lot of goals without fully understanding how each goal contributes to the success of the organization you represent. Also for your own personal success and the reason for that is because not all tasks, not all decisions require the same amount of time required, the same importance.
Usually it's much easier to see what you're doing when you look at things once they happen in hindsight. So when you turn back you see you might see someone super super, super busy and have the impression that you have not really advanced that much in your life. But the one thing that I believe it would be important to remember is this one that when you have a lot of stuff to do usually there are some strategic actions that could potentially allow you to hit the first piece of the domino so that all the other components would follow. The notion of strategy is to be efficient to be economical.
Sometimes a behavior that constantly rush that is always fast, holding high standards for yourself being a perfectionist. All these components may result from a lack of confidence, the fear of failing, meaning not feeling adequate, and what this one does, it creates a vicious dynamic that hinders decision making. The whole notion of fear as a protection mechanism, just like the unconscious biases that I pointed out before it is something that in many instances creates extra speed, or sometimes does exactly the opposite which is a procrastination.
In my experience, slowing down is not just striking the balance between taking more time. When I am evaluating different options or maybe postponing a decision. If I feel uncertain if I feel that I'm not ready for it, good decisions require what I call the “mental distance” to evaluate the issues.What it means is to take one step back, maybe a couple of step backs or three. So that from far I may see the details, the components that I need to way to make a good decision and understand maybe that some of them are not as important as I thought they were.
A metaphor that I often use for this concept is the painter in front of her masterpiece. It's this constant moving closer to the painting and sometimes stepping back so that you can check the colors, you can check the light, you can check the proportions to make sure that everything is in the right place.
As long as your face is stuck too close to the painting, you may not have an overall picture of what you're trying to accomplish. So slowing down, it means above all softening the mental noise
that is caused by constant rush. You know that deceptive impression that if I do more, I accomplish more, but instead I'm running in circles if I keep rushing. If I keep having my nose is stuck in the issue, it is very difficult to weigh all the options to understand how every single ingredient can be used for good decision making.
There are so many different remedies, so many things we can do in order to soften than mental noise that is caused by constant rushing. One of my favorite is basically spending time in nature.
A lot of research, a lot of psychological research that has been done to show the power of nature on our mental well being and the way we perceive things so our cognition can sharpen because of the time that we spend in nature.
So there's an interesting article written by Kirsten Weir and published um in the American Psychological Association website, I put in the notes of this episode the URL, hat essentially points out the benefits of spending some time in nature and Kirsten says something really nice.
She says, From a stroll through a city park to a day spent hiking in the wilderness, exposure to nature has been linked to a host of benefits including improved attention, lower stress, better mood produced risk of psychiatric disorders and even upticks in empathy and cooperation.”
And so what is the pity party over of this episode of the podcast? Pity Party Over is an expression that I used to say now that you went through those hurdles those challenges what you learn from them so that you can move on.
The whole point of this episode is the fact that we often have to make decisions in business with little data and time sometimes we want them but we don't have them and that's really the biggest challenge in business. Good decision making is basically a balance between pacing ourselves and understanding that sometimes we might have to go faster.
Sometimes we might have to go slower and then understanding that we can play with different settings, you know, working from home, working at the office to make sure that we have the right energy to make those decisions.
My biggest recommendation when you feel anxious, maybe fearful when you feel the stress is about to make your head explode. Sometimes the best option that you have is not to continue rushing is not continuing other people's expectation interrupting your work, but it may very well be closing your laptop, your computer then put some comfortable shoes on and then step outside step outside of your home, step outside your office and to spend some time in nature.
And what it does when you spend some time in nature, your emotions start slowing down, your thoughts, your intuitions, everything comes together, your limbic system, your emotional core, that is so fatigued to start slowing down. Start finding some peace and at the moment very likely the most incredible solutions may come up from parts of yourself that may feel completely unexpected.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Pity Party Over I hope it was insightful, it was interesting. If you have any questions pertaining how to make better decisions, I would love to talk to you, I'm always available.
My email is in the notes of the podcast. It is at Stephen.Matini@alygn.company. ALYGN is spelled A L Y G N.company. If you visit the website online dot company, you will find lots of different routes for individual team and organizational growth. You may subscribe to my blog or to my podcast Pity Party Over, their references are in the notes, and also we can connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Be happy be well and until we connect again, thank you for listening.