Making decisions was once a kid’s game.
As summer draws near, my mind goes to the carefree summers I enjoyed as a kid. For those three months from sunup to sundown, my siblings, neighborhood friends, and I would create nonstop fun from one back yard to the next.
One of our favorite summertime games was Chalk the Rabbit, and I have a feeling it may have been a favorite because it spanned a two- to three-block radius in our neighborhood. That equates to expansive freedom in a kid’s eyes!
We’d split into two teams, and while one team closed their eyes and counted, the other team got started with the chalk. Chalk the Rabbit was an elaborate hide-and-seek game with chalk arrows being drawn throughout the neighborhood.
Sometimes there was just one arrow pointing the opposing team in the right direction, and other times the arrows pointed left, right, and straight ahead which meant the seeking team had to make a decision as to which way to go.
You knew you were in the right vicinity when you came upon a chalk drawing of a rabbit. The telltale bunny pic meant it would take mere seconds to find your opponents who were hiding within a few feet of the colorful sketch of Bugs.
Today’s decisions seem so much heavier.
Fast forward a few decades, and the lighthearted feeling of summertime Chalk the Rabbit games is all but a fond memory.
Decision making, though, makes a daily appearance for me and every leader I know.
- Do I move forward in this way or that?
- Is my money spent better here or there?
- Should I devote more time to the new strategy we’ve uncovered or the tried-and-true one that’s worked quite well for us?
- Are we bringing our team back to the office or allowing flexibility for them to continue their work from home?
With chalk arrow decisions a thing of the past, leaders know there’s much more at stake. And that’s why having a few decision-making tactics at the ready is a wise business practice to follow.
I’d like to share some ideas with you.
A few I offer my clients include:
The Yes and the No of It— Make two lists. On the first, list what will happen if you say YES to the decision before you. On the second, list what will happen if you say NO. Compare your lists. Which do you like best? Move confidently forward in that way, and don’t look in the rearview mirror of your decision.
Your Dream Team—Think of three people you admire and respect. If you shared your current options with each of them, what would they say? What would they ask you to explore further? What drawbacks might they bring to the surface? What might they see based on their past experiences that could help you make your final decision?
The Zzzzzz Strategy—Ask yourself the question you’re contemplating as you lay your head on your pillow for the night. Your subconscious brain will take over and open yourself up to inspiration as you snooze through the night. You’ll wake up feeling refreshed and ready to move forward one way or the other based on that subconscious slumber party.
Trust Your Gut—While this approach often has staunch opponents, there is value in going with your intuition for some decisions. And I stress the word ‘intuition’, not ‘choosing at random’. Some scientists actually think intuition is a series of cognitive processes that occur so quickly you don’t even realize it’s happening. Your brain takes in the details of your current circumstance, compares it to similar past circumstances, and then quickly uses that information to make a decision. Is this the right strategy for ALL of your business decisions? No. Is it helpful with some of them? My Magic 8 Ball says, “It is decidedly so.” (Another childhood memory I couldn’t pass up.)
Know Your Source—Sometimes we make decisions out of scarcity (“But if I don’t decide to move forward right now, I may miss out!”). Sometimes we make them out of logic (“I gave myself a three-day window to explore various options, and I’ve determined this is the decision I’ll make now that I’ve gathered that information.”). Sometimes our decisions come from fear or belief or anger or self-trust. Before moving ahead with this choice or that one, know the foundation from which you’re making your decision. And, of course, if that foundation is wobbly, take some time to reevaluate.
Decision making is a vital skill for all leaders. And while the chalk arrows of my youth made the process quite simple, that ease isn’t always available now. With appropriate tools, however, and a healthy mindset, you can be a leader who makes courageous decisions with confidence in your ability to do so.