As I have been watching the current political circus for president, I have been paying attention to the “swing voters” that have been identified by both parties. These are voters who are not ideologically tied to one party or the other. They are people who decide often late in the process and this decision may change several times before their ballot is cast.
I am writing about this because I have the sense that they are weighing the right thing to do without having a simple approach to help in that decision. This is the same approach that all leaders can find useful in any type of decision making. So I’m going to share with you something that I have found useful. I put in my own disclaimer. I don’t always use this approach particularly when there is an emotionally charged issue. When that happens, I am in reaction to something and forget that there is a more consistent path to clear decisions.
Another note, this is a longer than usual posting as I feel it is a critical time in our history for decision making.
In summary, here are five questions I ask myself before making any important decision. I will offer more detail for each of these below:
- What do I want as an outcome?
- What are my concerns and expectations?
- What can I know for sure?
- What is my intuition about the right thing to do?
- What is my decision?
What do I want as an outcome?
This is the most important question. When you think about it, what is the best outcome from the decision that you are considering. Often I find that limitations come bounding in almost as soon as I ask this question. Thoughts such as “well you can’t really have that because… ” or “that’s too hard because…” or “you can never count on (put in name of person or institution) because”. These thoughts are often augmented by worry or emotional upset of some sort. All these thoughts and reactions will limit your options.
So I pay attention to them and allow them to pass before I ask the question again, “What do I want as an outcome?” When I am clear about the answer to this question, I write it down.
In the case of the upcoming election, “What do you want as an outcome?” Make sure the answer is yours and not one that is offered to you by one of the candidates or their surrogates.
What are my concerns and expectations?
OK, now I have a clear picture of what I want in the end, now what is it that I am concerned about? This will point you to the areas that need to be addressed by the decision you make. Then there is the matter of your expectations. When you make that decision, what do you expect from others based upon that decision. The distractions that I mentioned above can also come into play here. If they do, wait until you don’t feel any emotional charge or mind chatter and then write down your answers to these questions.
In the case of the upcoming election, what are your primary concerns (i.e. improving the economy, security, health care). Write down a sentence or two these concerns so that when you evaluate the candidates you are doing so consistently. As far as your expectations go, what do you expect to see in terms of behavior and results from the new President? Write that down both to help you decide now and to see how close the new President measures up.
What can I know for sure?
I find that if I am not careful, I make decisions out of hopefulness. I would like things to be different than they are and I hope this person and their actions will make it so. I do this even when I can see that it is unlikely based upon both how they have acted in the past and their own motivations and circumstances right now.
For example, during this election cycle so much of the talk is about what will be. The promises about taxes and defense strategy and health care and so on are all about what I hope to do for you. Yet this is not so simple. A President can not make the legislature do what he or she wants. A President can’t act without the support of the key leaders in his cabinet for they have to execute his plans. The President can tell other countries what to do, he is required to often collaborate with them to get things to work.
So when I am evaluating the person who I will vote for, I consider who has the best ability to lead their executive team, bring about collaboration with the legislature and can inspire people in our country and abroad to do the right thing.
Based upon what we know now, there are a number of other areas that we can evaluate concerning the requirements of the office of President. WIth those requirements in mind, we can determine who we believe has the best abilities to successfully fulfill these requirements.
What is my intuition?
In most discussions on decision making, the emphasis is on logic. Now I plenty smart and value logic as tool for decision making. Yet, I know the power of intuition. While I can’t explain exactly how it works, I find that intuition is something that I ignore at great risk. How many of us have had a gut feeling about something, but the “data” did not seem to validate the feeling. I ignore my intuition and later regretted it.
What I do is use my intuition to make sure the decision “feels” right. It’s like having a kind of safety net. If my intuition doesn’t follow the decision track I am on, I stop and go back to my process to see what I am missing. After that I check in again with my intuition to see if it feels more on track (See more about this in our Blog post Ring or Clunk).
In the case of the upcoming election, does my choice feel right with, my values and the rest of my decision making process. I find it good to ignore other people opinions, particularly with a decision as important as this, and make sure I am deciding because it is right for me.
What is my decision?
Finally, when I am clear about what to do I write it down in some detail. Two reasons. First, it helps me remember why I h choose what I did. If others are involved in the impact of the decision, I can use these notes to help get others on board. I also use what I have written to help me learn if things don’t work out as I expected.
Well that’s my offering to you. What do you think?