I was recently coaching a senior executive who was having difficulty making a decision. After a promotion, he was struggling to manage a large team and was trying to decide whether he should get help to do his job better or leave the company to find a more specialist role elsewhere.
It struck me that we tend to think about decisions as if they are binary: stay or go - keep or discard. This works with relatively simple decisions. Shall I eat an apple or orange? Wear the blue or black top today? But with more complex and weighty decisions, it adds a rigidity that easily mutates to indecision and stuckness.
It was clear that he needed a fresh approach – via an appetising metaphor. Like a good pot of tea, decisions often need time to brew. Sometimes it’s not the decision itself that’s especially tricky. It’s the knots with which you entangle yourself – as a response to the pressure you perceive in the situation. It’s the story you tell yourself about ‘lacking confidence to do the right thing’. So rather than focus on the content of the decision, let’s pay attention to the process.
I asked my client to consider on a scale of 0-10 how confident he was that he’d make the right decision. He said 8. 'How come it’s an 8 - and not a 0?', I asked. He explained that he’d made good decisions about his career before, and that whatever he decided, he knew he would make the best of the outcome.
Curious, I asked him about these other good career decisions and how he’d done that. What did he know about making good decisions about his career? Soon he was listing actions to move this forward - contact a head-hunter, chat with his boss, organise mentoring or training on team management, explore other suitable in-house roles. There was plenty to do while the decision brewed - actions that would provide more information, make progress and generate possibilities.
So next time you’ve got an important decision to make, give yourself more choice and allow things to emerge by asking yourself what you know about making good decisions, what’s worked before and what can you be getting on with whilst it’s brewing. You never know, you might even have time for a nice cup of tea.
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