Jeremy Goldberg humoristically stated:
“Courage is knowing it might hurt, and doing it anyway. Stupidity is the same. And that’s why life is hard.”
Beyond a smile, there is a pearl of wisdom here. When facing uncertainty, it is hard to gauge the quality of our decisions.
Imagine a manager and her software team are working on releasing a new feature. They are likely to miss their critical deadline and so she wonders if she should cut corners and bypass some secondary tests. It would ensure the team can release the update immediately.
How would you judge the decision to go ahead with the release? Hard to say, right?
Now, if it works fine, users are happy, costs and planning are respected, it is easy to label the decision as a courageous move.
If, instead, the release makes the software crash and users are unable to access it for several days, everyone will think it was foolish.
When we know the results, we have no difficulty judging decisions. But, as Golberg said, that’s another story when we don’t have the outcomes yet. So, where should we draw the line between boldness and recklessness?
An approach that I share in my book Act Before You overThink is to evaluate the quality of how we are making a decision rather than the decision’s results.
Simply put, shifting our focus from the decision’s outcomes to the process.
Therefore, a good decision relies on a good process, whether its outcomes are good or bad.
A simple example is playing roulette to earn a living. Even if we win once (a great result), we all know that over time, the casino always wins (inefficient process); therefore, this is a poor decision.
If we can all get this concept when applied to betting, we somehow miss it completely when we think of individual and team performance.
Too often, we evaluate our performance, how well we did, how effective we are, through the prism of our results. As a result, we fail to reliably assess the decisions and processes that led us to such results.
Signing a large deal sure feels good, but did you just ‘all-in’ and hit the lucky 7 on the roulette? Or was there a systematic sales approach ensuring you will consistently perform and onboard new clients?
Shifting our focus from outcomes to processes enables us to develop and sustain outstanding performance levels.
Then, how can we apply this mindset?
A practical aspect I often discuss with my coaching clients or during workshops relates to priorities and time management.
When I ask what the most efficient way to fill a glass bottle with rocks, pebbles, and sand is, everyone quickly comes up with the solution to start with the rocks first. Then the pebbles and finally the sand. Indeed, if we try to do the contrary, we won’t be able to fit the same amount of rocks.
The conclusion (and then process) we can extract from this exercise is to begin with the challenging and large tasks.
Unfortunately, for most of us, that’s not a process we follow. Instead, every day, we have to-do lists and we try to write off as many items as possible. And to get a good start, we decide to tackle the easiest tasks first (like answering our emails) to build momentum and make us feel better with a dopamine kick.
We just sent an email to our colleague confirming the date and time for the next weekly meeting. That’s a tick! One thing less to do and one more pat on the back!
But, by the end of the day, if we only answered emails and attended meetings without moving the needle on any of our important projects, we might have gotten many ticks on our to-do list without being truly performant.
We focused too much on the outcomes and not on the process.
That’s why I recommend blocking the first hour of the day – no meeting, no phone call, no email. And work on one single task. Not two, not three. Just one. One task that makes a difference. That has an impact.
Even if hell breaks loose and nothing goes according to plan after this hour, at least we progressed on an important task and began filling the bottle with rocks.
And, not only at the end of the day can we be proud as we advance something that matters, we also know that we are building sustainable performance by consistently working on rocks and not sand.
I hope you enjoyed this newsletter. Let me know your thoughts too!
To your success,
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- I am obsessed with fostering sustainable performance and crafting unique and memorable experiences, through coaching, workshops and keynotes. Reach out if you are interested in elevating yours or your team’s performance.
- With my first book Act Before You overThink to learn how to make better decisions faster and liberate your mind from the constant chatter that hinders your potential. You can buy it here.