How to Decide What to Do. Making Difficult Decisions.
"What should I do?" she asked, looking concerned. (The eager helper in me wanted to respond expediently with an answer.)
Instead, I said, "How do you make decisions?" 🤷♀️ and I sensed that this was not the response she was seeking. 👀
Yet, she hung in there with me. It went like this:
Her: "I usually make a pros and cons list."
Me: "Great, let's do it!" (We made a list.)
Me: "Pretend each of the items on that list is a bag of sand with a specific weight - from 1-100. What does each item weigh?" She assigned weights. Some of them were significantly heavier than others!
Next, I said, "Now, think about what you value and adjust the weights slightly upward on items that speak directly to your values." She increased the weights assigned to items like her reputation and gaining visibility for her team.
Since she was pondering something that had a rapidly approaching deadline, I added, "Take a look at your task and project lists for the coming weeks. Where does this request fit into your priorities?" She stated that she did not have room for anything else.
"OK," I said, "but rather than all-or-nothing thinking" (which we had previously discussed) "what alternative responses or solutions exist that are not binary?" 🤔 She came up with an alternative which was to say "Yes, with the caveat that I will need a different timeline."
Finally, I asked her to use a diagnosis approach 🤢 to look at the list of "cons." "Are any of the items listed on the list of cons deal breakers for you? (I used the example of 'a terminal cancer' that would be a clear diagnostic that prescribes the action to take.)
By this time, the ponderer had complete clarity to the "what should I do?" question. Eureka!
But wait...there's more.
I asked, "What if we used this same process to review the decision you made recently in your love life." (She had made a very painful decision to break a long-term relationship and felt conflicted.) We replicated the process and sure enough, she had intuitively known there was a 'terminal cancer' that had been growing, so she finally excised it for her overall wellness.
The diagnostic approach often brings finality to a decision. Examples:
✔ A direct report who is unteachable and insubordinate
✔ A girlfriend blowing up the phone with accusatory, inflammatory texts despite asking her to stop on many occasions
✔ A manager who verbally bashes their staff with minimal provocation
✔ A husband or wife who continually insists they "heard you" but never (ever!) changes a significantly hurtful behavior. 😒
It sounds so clear diagnostically speaking, yet it can cause a lot of anxiety to cut out the tumor! May I hear an "amen?!"
Next time you are wondering, "What should I do?" consider this process. There are numerous decision-making strategies out there - this is mine. Tell me how it works for you!