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confused

Don’t choose to be confused about something that isn’t confusing.

If you’re anything like me, you like data. You like to root around to find underlying causes, you seek out information, you consider possibilities and repercussions.

In most cases, you can find evidence that could support multiple decisions. And yet, you must decide.

While this approach is excellent at revealing things that might be overlooked and sometimes gives insight that helps you avoid a catastrophic outcome, often where it ends up is in confusion.

Too many extraneous details. An overwhelming amount of information that can lead to paralysis by analysis.

One solution lies in a short lesson I originally learned from author and CEO, Donald Miller:

Don’t choose to be confused about something that isn’t confusing.

Two sentences to end the confusion

If you’ve ever listened to a change management speech at work, you’ve probably heard the boss stand up and say something like this: “If we continue like this, we will die. Therefore, the right action is to make this change.”

To cut the confusion, fill in the blanks on these 2 sentences:

The unfortunate truth about the situation is _______________________

Therefore, the right action to take is ______________________

Examples:

  • The unfortunate truth about the situation is we’ve had negative earnings for the past four months. Therefore, the right action to take is to close the obsolete widget factory.
  • The unfortunate truth about the situation is we’ve fallen behind on the project. Therefore, the right action to take is to meet with the client and renegotiate the schedule.
  • The unfortunate truth about the situation is this team member isn’t working out. Therefore, the right action to take is to move this person to a different role or let them go.

These two sentence phrases may not necessarily help you make better decisions. They will definitely make you more decisive.

And you can use them anywhere. Consider:

The unfortunate truth about the situation is that my feet hurt, and I cannot continue with the pain.  Therefore, the right action to take is to buy two new pairs of shoes.

Because the structure supports any decision, alternately you might conclude:

The unfortunate truth about the situation is that my feet hurt, I cannot continue with the pain, and I have no money to invest in better shoes. Therefore, I will wear the most comfortable shoes I have to work, no matter how they look.

As humans, we have the ability to make anything confusing.

Even the shoe situation could be confusing. Maybe it’s not the shoes. Maybe it’s the socks. Maybe if I didn’t have to walk as far. Maybe I just need insoles. I hate going shoe shopping. I don’t want to spend money on shoes. Maybe when I go to parties, I just won’t dance anymore. Shoe styles these days really do not appeal to me.

We expand the issues and implications. We think what if and then what if and then what if…until the what ifs are stacked 3 deep and create a totally fictional future.

Instead, we need to simply acknowledge: the unfortunate fact is that my shoes don’t fit and it’s getting cold outside. This cannot continue; therefore, I’m going to bite the bullet and buy new shoes.

But Ken, how does this apply at work?

In a typical work-related situation – with a bunch of people and competing agendas and personalities – it’s really easy to make things confusing.

Especially if you’re somebody who doesn’t like to make people upset, you can make the mistake of avoiding the decision because you know you’re going to make somebody mad.

For example, let’s say you’re the subcontractor foreman on a construction site and there are problems. Materials are late to arrive impacting your progress.  There’s unexpected difficulty getting access to the site. It seems risky to hold your client, the general contractor, accountable for their miscalculations.  Your boss is upset and you feel the pressure of more challenging and detailed questions.  All these issues are stacked on top of the “normal” challenges of leading your crew.

Life is complex. Issues, risks, and challenges are inter-dependent. Personalities are in play. So much to be confused about!

No matter what you decide, you can’t make everyone happy.

So don’t choose to be confused.

Apply the model:

The unfortunate truth is that the project is falling behind on both schedule and cost goals. Therefore, the right action to take is ____________.

Fill in the blank with what you know needs to be done.

Whether you’re the person in power who can call the shots, or someone who can only recommend a course of action, the formula works.

Try it.

Life is too short to be avoiding and over-analyzing complex decisions. Leaders must be good decision makers and they must be decisive. There are tools and mindsets that support both. I have experience and can help you become a decisive decision maker.

If the unfortunate truth is that you need some help becoming a more decisive decision maker, the right action to take is to book a call with Coach Ken.

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Ken Roseboom

Ken Roseboom is the President of Thinking Partners. He partners with leaders to increase impact, create aligned teams, and deliver better results. He leverages the Alignment process, assessment tools, expert coaching, and years of front line leadership experience to support his clients.
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