Self-management Two Easy Steps to Improve your Personal Decision-making

Psychotherapist and author Sheldon Kopp said, “Most people don’t want to change and most of those who say they do, don’t want to really. They just want to be helped to feel better about remaining exactly as they are.”
These ideas imply that even those of us who believe we constantly struggle for change, often against great odds, can miss the point entirely: progress doesn’t happen until we change ourselves and we won’t do that until we realise how much we have invested in not changing at all.
In my work these are important issues because, like many leaders and managers, I often ask people to consider doing things differently. I have this crazy belief that we can do, as Venus and Serena Williams have done, pretty much anything we want to. We just have to be prepared to face the consequences of our desires.

Heroic management
But asking people to consider doing things differently usually implies asking them to add something to what they’re already doing. However persuasive the logic, this is difficult prospect for people up to their armpits in the everyday workplace frenzy. They say, “Look here, everything I do is important. Most of it’s urgent and much is overdue. How could I possibly cope with more? Show me!” They have no spare time, not even 20 minutes week. Every day is full-on, wall-to-wall busy-ness. Do more? Yeah, right!
This tendency to heroic, only-just-staying-on-top-of-it busy-ness is worth challenging. It might be ‘good look’ and sustainable temporarily, but it invariably points to willingness to keep urgently hacking away with blunt axe because we’re too busy to sharpen it. The axe may represent dulled competencies, inappropriate processes or lack of insight into personal motivation. Whichever, it’s counterproductive.
We certainly can find time to approach things differently. Everyone and everything stops for diarrhoea. That’s when we put down the phone (even heroes do), cancel the meeting, put the project on hold, tell others they must make their own decisions or do the best they can, discover that we are dispensable and that most things can wait, after all. We need only give the discovery of smarter practices the priority we give diarrhoea. Better to make that shift in values before the need is imposed through calamity, burn-out or failure.
Successful self-management gets the benefits of catastrophe, (time to reflect and process experiences, problem-solve, plan improvements, build or rebuild relationships, refocus and plan), without having one.
Until we pause to reflect on the true purpose, nature and usefulness of our activities, we keep trying unsuccessfully to solve problems with the practices that created them. It’s important to do this thinking when it seems there is no time for it: when everything has become urgent. It is best and more easily done proactively, before it has become an urgent necessity.
How aware are you of why you do not make the changes you claim to want? How willing are you to change yourself for the sake of better results, to bring out the best in others or for more effective collaboration with them? Where can you interrupt the cycle long enough to make start? How can you make time for it?

Time to make time
Progress begins when we take responsibility for our own part in the challenges we face, and for generating the causes of the effects we want to experience. Easy to say but difficult without good support.
Increasingly, busy managers and leaders use the discipline of off-site coaching or mentoring to catch their breath and refocus. This may seem like an unaffordable luxury but timesaving, stress-reducing, breakthrough outcomes are normal.
In safe and supportively challenging setting you learn from recent experiences and current challenges, study and experiment with new practices that break the cycle of recurring problems, and sharpen existing tools for more efficient use. You plan progress, and plan to manage that plan. Because the pro-cess is devoted to your specific concerns and development needs, there’s laser-light rather than torch-beam quality about it. Minimising your ideal-reality gaps in this way will definitely save you time, effort and heartache.
To begin, schedule session of between 90 minutes and two hours at three to eight-weekly intervals. If the process can be accommodated or supplemented by telephone or online, there are significant time-savings. Although success requires commitment, you should not be required to continue with the arrangement for any set period. In my own business, we offer an open-ended approach (online or in-person) preceded by mentoring-preparation and diagnostic surveys to establish useful starting-points, or focus on specific aspects of your self-management, people-management or leadership practices. You set the agenda.

Fear or growth
Faced with challenges, it’s usually not difficult to find what needs to change. Mostly, it’s common sense. More at issue may be fear of change rationalised by deciding that common sense is impossible or inconvenient. We choose constantly, as Sheldon Kopp says, between growth and fear. Face fear and you open the gate to fertile ground: that’s where the learning is. That may require real courage:
• To realise that the problem may be In Here, rather than Out There.
• To acknowledge we’ve created big mess by burrowing deeper into what was originally smaller one.
• To admit we are stuck, that we do not know or cannot do what we are supposed to.
• To admit vulnerability, call for help and open up to being rescued.
• To resist or ignore the teasing, taunting or poppy-shortening tendencies of others.
• To cross boundaries or explore new ideas.
• To undo the habit of seeing ourselves as powerless victims of things outside of our control, free to complain about those who cause them, who won’t permit change or who don’t change themselves.

To begin change
Important, far-reaching change is often more possible than it seems. Work from the inside out, beginning where you have total autonomy and control (over change within yourself), next where you have authority over others, then where you have none but there exists the possibility of influence. Conventional efforts reverse the order, trying to influence or control others first.
You already influence others: when you change yourself you alter the strength and intensity of the influence you exert.
Inside-out change works best when done with clarity about personal purpose, values, principles, roles and goals. For most people, establishing these is the first move.

Start here: efficient decision-making and quality decisions
1. Improve your decision-making efficiency. Create decision-making continuum and empower others to play their part in it. Start by listing the matters you and only you will decide. End with those you want your team to decide without your input or interference, and then describe the matters that lie between these extremes. Describe the processes that apply to each category.
Some people choose four models, others about six. If consensus is one of the models, define it: there is no consensus about what it means or how it works in practice. Pseudo-consensus is widespread, and damaging.
Benefits: Others increasing independence and confidence. Less dithering over decisions. Your time is freed up.

2. Improve your decision-making quality. Establish priority-management system. Assign your activities relative importance within simple guide pre-determined to pre-empt and minimise malperformance, crises, emergencies, recycled problems, and damaging conflicts.
This is not particularly difficult once you understand the prime causes of those negative events, though you may need help to come to that understanding. Most people who do this are shocked to discover how much time they spend on matters that (a) are neither important nor urgent; and (b) have become emergencies because “non-urgent important things” were not attended to.
Benefits: You’ll s

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