Friday, April 20, 2012

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda, Did...

As information continues to become more easily accessible, two very different things begin to happen.  The Indecisive Leader quickly becomes more overwhelmed and finds it even more difficult to commit to a decision, while the Decisive Leader is just as quick to make a decision as he was a decade ago, it's just more informed.  Don't get me wrong, I am not encouraging anyone to rush to a decision, but the circular logic and over analysis gets us nowhere fast.  I am a big fan of making informed decisions, embracing the 51% solution, committing to action, and collaboratively addressing the remaining 49% during execution.  Those who prefer the 100% solution before taking action continue to hold the rest of the team back.

The days I have spent working for Indecisive Leaders have armed me with more than a few "I wish I would have" sea stories, while working with Decisive Leaders has allowed me to tell many "I am Glad we Did" tales.  The latter is so much more fun and meaningful.

Personally, I am addicted to information.  I love to know what is going on in the world (at least my tiny corner of it).  And I love to do as much as I can about the things I consider to be in my sphere of influence.  I'll offer three examples of how increased access to information has impacted my life over the last month:

1) Last month I got my dream car, and I am not joking.  It's a Honda Odyssey, which should serve as another example of my huge ego.  One of the neat things about the car is the display that continually updates the miles per gallon.  Having that information on my dashboard has already made me drive differently.  I take a different path to work (less stops), I am less concerned with how long it takes me to get to a certain destination (MPG, not MPH, is now my metric of choice), and I tend to do a heck of a lot more coasting and a lot less braking.  More information has not slowed my decision making down, but it has resulted in different decisions demonstrated through different behaviors.

2) Around the same time, I purchased my first GPS watch to help me focus my triathlon training.  Knowing my heart rate, course elevation, various time splits, swim-stroke efficiency, average/instantaneous  bike speed, etc (it does just about everything), has not changed the way I train.  It has merely made me more aware of how my body responds to the training.  More information has validated the decisions and traning strategy that I was already employing.  Same decisions, more confidence.

3) The third example of feedback informing decisions and actions is that of 360 degree performance feedback.  Over the last month, I have had the honor of providing 360 degree mid-term counseling to roughly one-third of our 215 member team.  The objective was to make each individual more self-aware by understanding how their seniors, peers, and juniors were perceiving their performance.  The goal was not necessarily to make any specific behavioral changes, though some certainly will choose to.  The desired effect was merely to encourage self-reflection and provide a working aid to help them develop their personal improvement plan.  We care enough about each member of our team, as well as the team as a whole, to provide all with unique insight on HOW they are contributing, for we believe that is just as important as THAT they are contributing.  What they do with that is on them, but the conversations I shared with each tell me how appreciateive they were to be able to make more informed decisions about the way they contribute to the team.     

Information does not necessarily change the decisions we make.  When used appropriately, it validates our gut, it helps us to convince others to take action, and it speeds the decision/execution cycle.  We have a responsibility to make use of the information that is increasingly available, and it is paramount that leaders make the right information even more accessible (i.e. training, data access, shared priorities, situationl awareness, performance feedback, etc) to the team.  Over the course of my career I have filled my rolodex with a list of people who I refer to as "The Coalition of the Doing".  I do my part to identify and develop talent in an effort to grow that list.  It is that list that gives me reason to continue to serve.  The shorter the list, the more likely I am to call it a career.  Unfortunately, people not on that list remain in positions of authority, inadvertently promote a counter culture, slow us down, and frustrate the heck out of those who care the most.    

As we live our lives, let's do so in such a way that we allow ourselves (and those closest to us) to tell stories of "I am glad we did" triumphs, instead of "I wish we would have" missed opportunities.  Those with whom I serve in the Navy's Information Dominance Corps know that we are doing so in a time where we are at a crossroads each and every day; we have the opportunity to either do something significant today, or admire the problems as we defer things until tomorrow.  Let's choose to be bold and potentially wrong (making it right through thoughtful execution), instead of so timid we fail to act until the opportunity to execute is no longer available.

3 comments:

  1. I remember a Marine leader I respect a great deal telling me many years ago (paraphrasing):

    "You'll never have enough information to make the perfect decision. Usually you won't have enough information to even make a a good decision. Go ahead and make the best decision you can, with the information you have. If it turns out you made the wrong one, you'll at least have gained enough additional information to help inform your next decision."

    Words to live by. The key thing is to not choose a wrong decision that irrevocably commits you to a disastrous outcome.

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  2. I like this simply for the reason that all you hear these days are old stories of "what I did on the boat". I would like to see more of the team going the distance not only for the Command but in their own lives and saying "You won't believe what exciting things I have planned".

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  3. Hexsaw - Great words and thanks for sharing!

    brett6062 - So true. Looking to the journey ahead with excitement and a clear direction is motivating. Planning, doing, achieving (repeat)...now that's inspiring and the behavior of a team with whom I want to serve.

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