Overconfidence makes for bad decisions. We rarely have all the information required to make a call, so we rely on our gut. Using intuition leads to mistakes. Instead of using confidence for decisions, use it to get the wheels in motion on an action or outcome. For example, if I think I’m a good writer and want to launch a book, use that confidence to write the first chapter and move on from there.
Underconfidence creates self-limiting beliefs. We forget others struggle. We misjudge the time and attention others use to accomplish a goal. For example, if learning a new language in a class setting, I may think I’m not as good as another student even though she’s just returned from a year language immersion program in another country. Another source of being underconfident is doing something infrequently. Try backing a boat into a landing every ten years versus someone who does it every day. Frequency builds skill and confidence.
We all have feelings of vulnerability or not being “as good as.” In Perfectly Confident, the author shares that John Steinbeck said, “I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.” As a not prolific writer myself, wow.
So, how do we make better decisions? Make forecasts that outline the range of outcomes with assumptions, not the exact answer. Forecasts make better decisions. For example, if you’re estimating a project completion date, and it should take two months. Make a better decision by asking, “What’s the probability it’s finished six weeks, two months, or three months and why?” Thinking this way makes us consider multiple possibilities and assumptions instead of a single set of beliefs for the two-month target.
Think “which” not “whether.” In Perfectly Confident, the author shares a study where participants chose to buy a movie or not. Next, they asked a separate group of participants who would rather have a film or the cash to buy the film. 75% presented with the choice of “whether” to buy the film. A little over half chose the movie when presented with which.
Tied to the above, not in the book, I look for “and” solutions instead of “or” solutions. For example, if I’d like to exercise and want to spend time with my son, an option is to go for a run with my son.
Be aware of bias. Curb bias by involving others in decisions. Keep in mind a crowd is typically better at deciding than a single expert. When asking for opinions, get insight from people who don’t hold your exact argument; otherwise, you are doubling down on your preference.
Be confident yet know when you don’t know. Research shows that being sure increases credibility, but if results don’t back that confidence and credibility, others will quickly fall away. Also, being vulnerable and saying we’re not 100% certain of our decision creates authenticity and trust—balance confidence and vulnerability.
As a leader, be clear on standards and open-minded to new information. Clear performance standards reduce bias. When we’re open to others’ insights, we make better decisions.
We all have different times when we are most effective. This is our chronotype.
Most have a chronotype that peaks in the morning, have an afternoon trough, and an evening bounce.
Beyond the above chronotype, there are two others: night owl and lark. Night owls hit their stride in the evening and are typically more creative and impulsive. Larks believe in Ben Franklin’s early to bed, early to rise with their best hours in the early AM. Larks tend to be stable and introverted.
So, how should one schedule the day? Base it on your chronotype and plan accordingly. For example, if you’re not a lark or an owl (which is 60-80% of the population), the morning peak is the best time to tackle focused tasks. Do idea generation in the early evening.
If you’re an owl, flip the above. Spend night time thinking critically and save the morning for creative tasks.
For meetings or negotiations, mornings are typically better than other parts of the day.
Are you having a medical procedure? Do it in the morning. Mistakes are most common after 3:00 PM. At 9:00 AM, there’s a 1% chance of an error. By 4:00, that quadruples.
Breaks are good. Every hour, taking a five-minute break reduces fatigue and improves motivation.
Here’s the recipe for a nap which seems counter-intuitive. Have a cup of coffee, then set a timer for 20 minutes. If you’re like most, you’ll fall asleep in about seven minutes, get a dozen or so minutes of sleep, and have the ideal nap.
With projects, use a premortem. Try to identify all the ways things could go wrong and identify ways to avoid them. Understand the power of the midpoint. Use the middle of a project, like a sports team down by one point after the first half, as an inspiration to bring the effort needed to get the project to completion.
While less a business idea than an interesting observation, in When the author shares the concept of “9-enders.” Whether it’s running a marathon or committing suicide, there’s a disproportionate number of 29, 39, 49, etc., who are inclined to do dramatic actions when finishing a decade.
While some life planners say happiness comes from being present, absolute satisfaction is when your current self lines up with your future and past you.
Care for team members but know at times individuals may be sacrificed to complete the mission. I believe in caring. When people are going through a personal hard spot, I go out of my way to care and help. Funerals are mandatory; weddings are optional. On the flip side, in times like 9/11 or the pandemic, hard decisions to preserve the organization need to be made, like letting people go.
Spend leadership capital on what counts. Stay out of the way and let others do their jobs. When decisions need to be made by others, I say it is “It’s your call because I don’t want your job back.” Yet, sometimes, on a significant issue headed in the wrong way, I chime in and state what needs to happen.
Share “the why” not “the how.” As a leader, I share the overarching goal and the purpose but not the specific steps to achieve the goal.
To be a good leader, be a good follower. The best idea wins, regardless of who’s behind the decision. In discussions, I let others go first, withhold judgment, and seek to understand the positions and views of others.
Training is mandatory and should be realistic, focus on fundamentals, and repetitive. Every Friday, I hold a training session with the Intertech Education Division’s Account Executives. The agenda includes sharing a best practice from the last week, each covering a book summary, and performing mock sales calls. The mock call is the core of our training. After the call, we evaluate it. The goal is to create true sales professionals who perform with muscle memory.
Plan, but don’t overdo it. In goals, focus on the outcome and be flexible on the path to the destination. When identifying potential goal risks and mitigations, don’t try to account for every possible thing that could go wrong. Focus on the most likely and determine the best response.
I finished The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek. Sinek shares that the business world is not a finite game, so business leaders need to have an infinite mindset. Like in sports, in a finite game, there’s a start and finish, agreed-upon rules, and in the end, a winner. This isn’t true for businesses.
Businesses should not be judged only on sales, profit, and share price. Instead of focusing on just those factors, leaders should be building something that will endure for generations. An example shared in the book is Microsoft’s original mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” This infinite game mindset changed under Steve Ballmer. With Balmer at the helm, Microsoft was focused on beating Apple and its market share. Remember Microsoft’s Zune? No? Exactly.
An excellent example of playing the infinite game is Victorinox. Governments banned knives in carry-on luggage after 9/11. Before 9/11, knives were 95% of the company’s sales. Victorinox’s response was to go into new markets like travel gear and watches. Today, knives are 35% of Victorinox’s revenue.
As the author explains, there are five parts of the infinite mindset:
Advance a Just Cause: Focus on the long-term, not the quarter. Treat employees with respect.
Build Trusting Teams: Think people first, profit second.
Study your Worthy Rivals: As in sports, Worthy Rivals force us to improve.
Prepare for Existential Flexibility: Be flexible on the approach to achieve the goal.
Demonstrate the Courage to Lead: Show commitment to the cause. High-performing firms have a Visionary and an Implementer.