This article was based on episode 144 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Get the Optimal Decision-making Framework Checklist when you become a member at themodernmanager.com/join.
Moment of truth: In tough situations at work, I struggle to make decisions. Like many people, I get stuck trying to figure out the “right” thing to do. Other managers have shared with me their struggle to make decisions, juggling what they want with what their bosses and employees need. While there are many approaches to decision-making, psychologist Timothy Yen has a formula that integrates the many factors to consider when trying to find the optimal decision. A good decision, as he explains it, is one that reflects your values while also meeting the needs of everyone involved. He outlines his method in his book, "Choose Better: The Optimal Decision-Making Framework”. From his years in private practice and as a Mental Health Staff Sergeant in the US Army, Timothy has empowered hundreds of individuals, families, organizations, and teams. Here, he breaks down for us how managers can use the four pillars approach to become more effective decision makers.
PILLAR # 1: WHAT ARE YOU FEELING?
Making tough decisions brings up a lot of emotions. Conventional wisdom says emotions are a nuisance, something annoying that will derail us or cloud our judgement. Timothy disagrees. As he puts it, emotions are our friends. They are trying to tell us something. Go through the process of identifying your emotions and then explore why you feel that way.
If you’re sitting with an employee who’s trying to make a decision, give them the space to explore and understand their emotional reaction. It helps to ask questions as well as share your own reflections and emotions. Just make sure to do so in a way that makes space for both of you. For example, acknowledge that the decision isn’t yours to make or that you recognize your position of power and how that may impact their own feelings.
PILLAR # 2: WHAT ARE YOUR VALUES?
In addition to emotions, it’s important to make decisions that align with our values. When we don’t we experience cognitive dissonance or can later come to regret the decision. Consider what is most important to you. In thinking about the situation, consider what outcomes you would like to see based upon your values.
PILLAR # 3: WHAT DOES YOUR TEAM WANT?
We don’t live or work in a vacuum where the only opinions that matter are our own. Consider what your teammates value. If you’re not clear on what they care about, ask. Great managers take the extra time to understand what their team members care about. They’re not afraid to stop and ask questions. But, in order to get honest answers, you must cultivate an atmosphere of psychological safety. To do this, start off with communicating how much you care about them and their needs. As Timothy puts it, when people know that you care, they will follow you to the ends of the Earth.
Having in-depth conversations is especially important with team members from different cultural backgrounds. When we come from different backgrounds, we have different expectations for what is normal. When asking about someone’s values, also use this as an opportunity to ask where they got that value from. This will help you better understand them and what matters to them.
PILLAR # 4: WHAT ARE THE REALITY CONSTRAINTS?
Regardless of what we want, there are other factors that need to be taken into account when we make decisions. We need to take stock of the realities that we have to deal with, such as expectations from our boss or a project’s financial constraints.
As you try to bring these things together, you may find that what you want doesn’t jive with the project’s timeline. Or, that what your team wants conflicts with what your manager wants. This is where the managerial art of balancing comes into play. Your team wants to feel listened to and cared for. Let them know that you will do everything in your power to get them what they want while also working with your manager’s needs. Remember, an optimal decision is one that aligns with who you are, which you can make with confidence that strikes a win-win for all stakeholders.
Sometimes making a gut decision is the easiest - but not the smartest - thing to do. Other times, we may try to avoid a decision, hoping the choice will go away or be made for us. In both cases, we do a disservice to ourselves and our colleagues. If we take time to go through this process, we discover decisions that align with who we are, what others value, and what is possible within the context. When we think in this way, the challenge of decision making transforms into an opportunity to strengthen ourselves and our team.
KEEP UP WITH TIMOTHY
Get the Optimal Decision-making Framework Checklist when you become a member of the Modern Manager community at themodernmanager.com/join.
This article was based on episode 144 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Amazon, and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.