Thursday, February 11, 2010

"Don’t Talk Your Highest Priorities off the Ledge"

In our fast-moving, complex world of work sometimes the toughest challenge is discerning the right choice. However, an even bigger issue can bog us down once we have zeroed-in on the right decision.

When a clear path emerges and we know what we need to do, we often sabotage ourselves by talking our highest priorities off the ledge.

Perhaps it is a difficult conversation with a colleague, or maybe it is a tough staffing decision that will have immediate and adverse impacts on people; whatever it is, when a difficult choice presents itself it is often accompanied by a series of rationalizations or believable stories that justify why taking the leap is no good.

Two predictable factors are in play when we counsel ourselves into passive-mode and step back from the edge of implementation: 1) initiating the decision is a stretch from our everyday comfort zone and/or standard skill set; and 2) the absence of courage to act is re-framed as "uncertainty" (buying into the story of confusion leads to indecision at the moment of truth).

The next time an important priority emerges for you and you feel yourself stepping back from action, think about the following reminders:

- A small degree of uncertainty is healthy because it signals a convergence of diverse perspectives and means that you’re seeing the issue from all angles;

- A deeper reserve of courage to act on the right priorities can be summoned in the form of a flexible mindset, which is the willingness to adapt if new information can improve the decision or action; and

- Your investment of time and energy that went into determining the best solution must be trusted – in other words, you climbed to the ledge precisely because you knew you needed to take this important step.

While it is never easy to stretch beyond our comfort zone, experience will teach us that stepping back from the ledge of our highest priorities leaves us nowhere to go but down.

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