Leadership Soapbox – Leadership Decision Making part 1

How to make a decision as a leader that your staff will get behind


Hi, my name’s Neil Pointer, And welcome to this week’s episode of The Leadership Soapbox. And today, we’re going to start talking about decision making.

I think decision making is probably the fundamental tool, and the basis of good management and leadership. If we can’t make decisions, it doesn’t matter how good a communicator we are, doesn’t matter how good a monitor of progress we are, if we can’t make decisions based on what’s going on, we’re in trouble.

So we’ve got a big decision to make. Where do we start?

Well, I think we start by recognising that we have a decision to make. And that we have an opportunity to make a decision. Now, you’re seeing the acronym that I come up with, or my little saying, stop, think, act. And I’ll put it across the top of the screen here.

What I’m going to talk about today is the importance of the stop. Because I want myself, I want my body, my brain, in decision-making mode. Now that might sound a little strange to you. But there’s a very good book, Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. And in it, he explores a lot of the processes that we use in decision making. But one of the things he introduces very, very early on is the idea of system one and system two thinking.

System one is your automated thinking. It’s the part of you that answers two times two. What’s the capital of France? And those are the two examples I think he gives in there. Now those are intuitive answers. I don’t need to involve any effort at all in finding the answer to them. The challenge is, is that a useful mode to be in when I’m making decisions? So what I’m saying we need to do is to, and Daniel talks about, is activating system two.

System two is what answers 17 times 42? That causes a response, ooh, and another part of the brain gets activated. It’s the part of you that can react to a starter’s gun, in a race. Or look for the person with the red hair. Those are all examples in the book he gives. That’s the part of my brain I want running when I’m making a decision. I want to be in control, I want to be calm, I want to be collected, and I want to be consciously engaged in what I’m doing. I don’t want automated processes running a really important decision.

Now, someone’s going to say, but what about intuition? To which I say, great, grab it, say thank you very much, and I’m going to use that later. I’m not going to leap to the intuitive answer. That’s not good decision making. Because I might be ignoring a whole load of things that intuition hasn’t paid any attention to. And also, unless I am a real expert in that zone, or in what I’m talking about, I don’t know if I can trust my intuition. I’ll explain that on another video.

So two things so far, I want system two thinking activated, I want to grab any intuition and just hold onto it. And the third part of the stop is that I want to answer some critical questions.

First of all, is this a decision for me to make? Is it in my pay grade, is it my responsibility? Or is there any reason why I can’t make this decision?

Secondly, and I think really importantly, how long have I got to make this decision? Is it a two minute, a two day, a two week, a two-month decision? How long have I got, what are the limitations on this decision that I need to make? I need to map this out, because this is going to impact my process. It’s going to impact how I go about doing it.

Having been in the army, I’ve been in the 22nd decision-making process, but I’m still making a decision. And I still need to be switched on to it.

Just to give you an example of that, I’ve just recently done some St John’s first aid training, as part of my vaccinator training. What’s the first thing you do when you approach the scene of an accident? You assess. You don’t rush in. Even the emergency services do not rush in. So, we want to take time. So how much time have I got?

Third question. Do I need to involve anybody else at this stage? Can I get the team involved, or is this just me, on my own? Excuse me. Now, here’s the critical thing, I need to stop. I need to engage my thinking processes. And then I’m in a really good position to go on and think. So, there’s the stop. I’ll be really interested to hear what you’ve got to say about that. Leave a comment below, get in touch with me. Email’s at the top corner here. Let’s have a think about this. What is good decision making, and how does it work for us?

Okay, brilliant, thank you very much. I’ll look forward to seeing you in my next video.

More from Stop, Think, Act the decision-making series

Decision making part 1 – Stop

Decision making part 2 – Think part 1

Decision making part 3 – Think part 2

Decision making part 4 – Act