Decisions 101

Even though I have been in management for most of my professional career, I rarely write about such topics. Perhaps it is too close to home, or simply too much like work for me to enjoy writing about it on my blog. Today is different. I have been thinking of things that help organizations make better decisions and want to share them.

1. When you bring problems to you’re supervisor/manager/director be sure that you have also thought about potential solutions. Bursting in to the boss’s office with an urgent “the sky is falling” message is much better received if you have considered the problem from different angles and have some solutions or responses ready to suggest.

2. Do not hesitate to give your opinion about issues that arise in your work. Nothing riles me more than when I am trying to have a discussion with an employee and I get the silent, blank stare. What I want is opinions, ideas, information, even arguments. Ken Blanchard is famous for saying, and I am known for repeating, “All of us are smarter than some of us.” We almost always make better decisions when we make them together and employees often have the most important perspectives.

3. When faced with a crisis, problem, or tough decision, put on you asbestos britches and just get to work. No whining, no blaming, no procrastinating. Just do it. And never, ever try to hide it, whatever the ‘it’ is for you. If I know what I am dealing with I am much more inclined to be forgiving than when I have been blindsided because someone was afraid to speak up.

4. Nothing can be declared finished until the paperwork is done. The documentation, reports, publicity, thank you letters, financial accounting, etc. cannot be ignored. If you do, it always comes to haunt you – and it is always worse the second time around.

That’s my list. Call it accountability, call it follow through, call it common sense, or something else, but a person who heeds this advice will have great success.

What would you add to the list?

The more you know

“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.” – Bertrand Russell

Have you ever known someone who was so very dumb, did very dumb things, acted just plain stupid, but yet THOUGHT they were so smart! Come to find out, and my experience bears this out, the dumber someone is, the smarter they think they are. Conversely,  the smarter one is, the less confidence they have in their intelligence.  They’ve even done some scientific studies that prove the point. and it has a name: The Dunning-Kruger Effect. Sufferers have what has been called illusory superiority, where people overestimate their positive qualities and underestimate their negative qualities relative to others. I guess the corollary is illusory inferiority.

What I would have labeled as false modesty for intelligent people, is actually a psychological fact. This has fascinated me since I first heard about Dunning and Kruger’s Cornell University study a decade ago. The theory has many applications beyond simple wisdom and ignorance.  Take ethics, for example.

Ethics and Ignorance

I have recently had a class on Leadership and Ethics through Gonzaga University’s Masters of Organizational Leadership program.  We talked a lot about Kant, various ethical theories, shadow and light – basically what you would expect from an ethics course.  But we also talked about Moral Imagination. I am simplifying, but basically, you have do develop your moral imagination in order to truly understand the ethical decision-making process well enough to make the right decisions. It’s kind of like exercising – but for one’s ethics muscles instead of the biceps. The various ethics theorists agree that ethical orientations develop along a continuum, from very basic understanding of a thing as right or wrong, to quite advanced reasoning and understanding.

And I find it very interesting that a person who is at a lower stage of ethical development cannot understand the reasoning of someone operating at much higher stages (one above and one below is the generally accepted rule of thumb). The same holds true for various stages of cognitive development in adults.  Lawrence Kohlberg came up with a theory of Adult Development, and made the same conclusions. It makes sense. You cannot relate to or understand something if you have not developed the imagination or cognitive experience that will open your mind to understand these different possibilities.

What does all this have to do with anything?  Well, nothing and everything.  If you want to relate to people you are trying to influence, whether it is employees, family members, or politicians, then you are wise to first understand their level of development. From there, you can craft your message to appeal to them at the level of development at which they are functioning, presumably with better results.

Maybe this is what our political leaders need to understand when trying to negotiate for peace. That, and the fact that they may not be as smart as they think they are.