October 10, 2010

Keeping Sane – Influencing What You can

Life is busy. We have many things on our plate – too many most of us would say. And at times it can seem overwhelming.

So often there are issues we face that challenge us, often many times a day – and frequently shift our perspective, making what are relatively trivial issues magnified, such that they can easily consume us.

Much of what happens in our lives can be adjusted by the choices we make. So often a choice we make is a choice that we might make almost unconsciously, especially where we decline to make a difficult one, because the consequences of making it might be tough.

Then there are the times we spend considering and wringing our hands about circumstances over which we have no choices at all, because there are no actions we could take that are within our sphere of influence.

So we waste much of our time thinking about things that are completely outside what we can change, whatever we do.

We spend time there because it’s less controversial to be there, rather in the thick of issues where we can make real differences to our lives, because it’s easier to whine about external, uninfluenceable issues, than it is to face into areas that we could challenge.

But doing that is hard. So we bottle it and spend time blaming the rest of the world.

Sometimes, the people we associate with in our lives – and particularly where we manage others, the employees we have in our teams – lay on us their problems and issues they have in their lives that they cannot control, making their lives so seemingly awful.

The tactic here is to ensure that we encourage them simply to focus on those issues where a difference can be made and spend as little time as possible in those places where we can’t. And we do the same with our issues too.

Then we create more space to be much more productive and effective and take control, rather than waste our available time in that hole where we can – if we choose – wallow about what the world is doing to us.

As managers, we can model our ability to focus only on areas we can influence to our people too, encouraging them to be much more relevant with their thinking and then actions.

Above all, remembering that it’s a choice.

Filed under Blog, Developing Your People, Management Basics, Managing Me by Martin

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November 23, 2008

“Making no choice is a choice” – William James

“When you have a choice to make and you don’t make it, that is, in itself, a choice.”
William James, American Psychologist

You can’t get away from making difficult choices in your business by avoiding them. The challenges that those choices represent are going to need fixing some way or other.

Because making no choice, is indeed a choice in itself. You are just as responsible for the consequences as if you had made a significant choice anyway.

So, by preferring the lazy and ineffective way out, the choice you make is just that, ineffective and weak, leading to the outcomes you achieve and, bluntly, deserve.

And it’s worse as well. When you fail to make the constructive choice to actively lead your team, your people start to get twitchy, because indecisive leadership gives no confidence at all.

By avoiding difficult decisions, you build only mistrust from your people, something you will find very challenging to recover from. Trust can take months and years to build, but only a few seconds to destroy.

A business that is managed by an individual who really cannot make decisions (especially the tough ones where everyone is watching!) and make choices that are dynamic – even when they turn out to be wrong – will lead to confusion and concern for team members.

Of course, you can take defensive positions a little when you have the most challenging of choices to make. There is nothing wrong if you need to take a time out before committing yourself.

If you consistently have a personal style that your people get to understand clearly, even if it means a break before a choice is made, they will learn to appreciate that and have an understanding about how you tick. They will know that you like to think and consider the options you have carefully before you choose – and then you do act and make that choice.

By the way, this works in real life as well!

Filed under Great Quotations, Managing Me by Martin

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