Sunday, February 28, 2010

Feeling Our Way to Thoughtful Decisions

Think-Decide-Feel. Or is Feel-Decide-Think better? Maybe Decide-Think-Feel is the best?

Actually, anyone of the six combinations formed by reordering these three words will work just fine. Think-Decide-Feel is the name of a workshop I attended many years ago which focused on the way people process information. My pattern is Think-Feel-Decide which means I like to think about the decision, then feel – try it out for size so to speak, and then only after having done that do I want to decide. The advantage is that my decisions are pretty solid; the disadvantage to this style is that decisions can take a while and then it can be hard to change my mind. My friend Glenn made decisions differently. He liked to pick a solution, then collect the data and if he needed to he’d pick another option and test it out. Don’t make the mistake of thinking Glenn was wishy-washy – far from it. His decision making style was just different from mine.

One day Glenn and I met together to try to sort out a difficult university disciplinary situation. The conversation was going nowhere and we were both frustrated. Finally, Glenn looked at me and said, ‘I know why this isn’t working. I haven’t made a decision yet. Okay, let’s suspend them.’ Luckily for both of us, I understood what he meant and knew that he wasn’t trying to derail our discussion. We talked about all of the issues surrounding a decision of suspension, agreed that wasn’t the best answer, and moved on to something else that we both agreed was a better solution. Our supervisor, who had a different style from both Glenn and I, let us work our way through it. She didn’t try to short cut the discussion we had to have and she trusted that we would work our way through our differences. Her leadership supported and valued the different perspectives we brought to our jobs to the benefit of everyone.

To lead creatively and to lead for creativity, we need to understand and value the many ways that we differ and to create an atmosphere that not only makes room for such differences, but truly values them. Each of us brings our own perspective, talent and skill into the mix. We also bring our decision-making style and our thought processes along with us. And as challenging as that can be, it’s essential to good work and creativity.

So whether you Feel-Think-Decide or Think-Decide-Feel, it’s important to understand your own thought process and style and respect those of others no matter what your role in the organization. And as a leader, it’s important to go even further to value those differences and make room for them in the organization.

So how do you feel this? Or what do you think about it? Or can you decide?

Take care,


1 comment:

  1. This was a hard one. Can you have a different pattern depending on the situation? I'm sure that I mostly feel, then think a bit, then decide quickly, then back up if I need to. It took me years to realize that intuitive thinking was as valid as linear thinking. It was liberating and helped me appreciate my own style and also appreciate that my workplace or other relationships benefit from people with different approaches.
    Can you be an effective leader without appreciating these differences? I tend to think not.