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5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

5 Techniques To Make Better Decisions

How can I make better decisions?

I browsed the web and ended up on Qoura reading the most popular answers. People often suggested, “just do it,” “ignore fear of failure,” and “never turn back.”

I thought it over and really considered it. If I simply ignored the “fear of failure” and just “did it”, would that really be making a decision? Absolutely not!

“Just doing it” results in even more failures and even more regrets. Imagine if general George Patton just ignored his “fear of failure” and recklessly charged straight into enemy lines without a plan! Image if you, or your family and loved ones ignored all risk and “just did it” instead of taking the time to make a well informed decision.

Imagine if we applied those same results for:

– Buying a house

– Quitting your job

– Having kids

– Investing in a new business venture

– Getting Married

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– Having a vasectomy

– Plastic surgery

It probably wouldn’t end up so well!

Instead of flipping a coin, using your magic 8 ball, or “just doing it”, here are 5 techniques to make better decisions.

1. “I cannot decide on what I do not know!”

Hal wanted to quit his job. After his workday was over, he sat down with a pen and paper and came up with a massive list of pros and cons. He wrote out everything he wanted to do and how he was going to make money. He imagined over and over the freedom and excitement that he would gain after leaving. The next day Hal walked into work and quit.

This may sound great to some but, the problem with Hal was that he did not know enough to make a good decision yet! He rushed what he actually had plenty of time to do.

Everything that he imagined and dreamed about was blurry. All the “facts” that Hal used to make his decision were NOT verified facts, but rather bits and pieces that he heard from his friends or picked up on from the far corners of the internet. Hal is extremely jaded.

Hal then replayed the same facts over and over in his head (thinking they were real). No new information was being added to the equation to allow him to make a better decision.

We often jump to conclusions when making difficult decisions that require serious thought and planning. We must first gather more information because:

  1. You do not know what you do not know!
  2. You cannot decide on what you do not know!

If I asked you to solve the following equation A + B + 2Z – 10X = P could you do it?

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Not right away because there are too many unknowns! You could guess or use trial and error but that takes too much time and a great deal of effort in real life. We need to go out and collect more information to make a better decision.

We do not have all the answers

2. “Maybe you can help me?”

The quickest way to gathering more information to make that tough decision is to go out and ask other people. However, there is a trick. Ask the people who have already done it! Stay away from the people that don’t have any experience but seem to know everything.

This year, while I complete graduate school, I wanted to participate in applied clinical research. More specifically, I wanted to design and develop medical devices from a clinical need.

Instead of “just doing it,” I decided to reach out to a respected faculty member to see if it was a good idea. I went to him and poured my heart out. He looked at me like I had 2 heads and shunned me away!

I took the advice to heart and sulked a bit. Instead of just quitting, I decide to gather even more information! But this time, I reached out to other schools including MIT, Stanford, UMN, and Johns Hopkins. The information and feedback I got was amazing.

Why? Because all these schools were actually DOING IT! That had already developed over a hundred medical devices in the same fashion I wanted to do. Not only that, they had specific programs to help people like me who wanted to do that kind of research and design.

On the other hand, my school was not doing it and the professor I reached out to wasn’t either.

-Ask the people who are doing it or have already done it to get more information.

3. Seek the Devil’s Advocate.

As human beings, we are self-confirming. We naturally seek out information that we already agree with and tend to ignore information that we disagree with. Skepticism and denial can be good in some instances, but these characteristics must not be confused with being hard-headed.

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Imagine 2 documents sitting right in front of you, one with information you agree with, and the second with information you disagree with. Whether you are right or wrong, or whether the information is right or wrong, you will pick the document that you agree with first and consider that information more seriously. Obviously, whether you are right or wrong, you will pick the document containing information you agree with first and take that more seriously.

Let’s go back to the “should I quit my job” example. You probably already REALLY want to quit your job and have already made up your mind. Now, instead of making a decision, you are just confirming your existing desire to quit, by collected confirming evidence. This confirmation bias blinds us from the obvious and has lead to some of the worst business decision ever made (for example, Quaker Oats‘ aquisition of Snapple).

To counteract this, reach out and collect information that opposes your existing viewpoints.

Good businesses use this process all the time. When Fortune 500 companies make big time investments (like acquiring another company, investing in new ventures, downsizing, re-sizing, etc.), they hire a completely separate team to investigate the opposing viewpoint, and then seriously consider the opposite.

Remember, “De-Nile isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

4. Beware of the sham options.

Everything seems great in comparison with something crappy.

The other day I was watching HGTV’s Home Hunters Abroad. A couple was shopping for a beautiful island home in Caruso. They required two things: it had to be less than $400,000, and it had to be rent-able.

The couple contacted a real estate, who I now realized was skilled in the art of sales. He lined up 3 beautiful houses. House number 1 cost $399,000 and was perched on top of a hill overlooking a magnificent clear blue bay. The couple fell in love with the view and was seriously considering buying the house until they found out the new construction would get in the way of their ocean view.

After seeing how the couple reacted to the ocean view, the real estate agent quickly changed his sales tactics. He showed them house #2, which had a stunning ocean view and a white sand beach a few steps from their back door.

The only problem was the house was $489,000 – a full $89,000 over budget. The couple was so angry at the real estate agent that they considered replacing him.

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Finally the last on the list, house #3, had no view, was not rent-able and was $10,000 under budget.

Which house did they chose?

The couple went with house #2 that was $89,000 over budget! They made a poor decision and broke the bank because they were not aware of the sales trap the real estate agent set.

House #2 seemed like the best option in that context, compared to the shame option of house #3. In a different context, going an extra $89,000 over budget is a bad idea.

What they should have done was not buy anything and waited until something else showed up. However, when you are in the middle of a difficult decision, sometimes it’s hard to gain that kind of perspective.

5.  Factor in the opportunity cost

How could the previous couple in the home buying example snap out of the mental trap set by the real estate agent?

The couple needed a change in perspective. When dealing with big number numbers like $400,000 and $486,000 the difference might not seem that much, but let’s take another look and consider the opportunity costs.

What is another to $89,000 to you? Well it’s another 2 years of saving every single cent of your paycheck (assuming you make ~$60,000 before taxes). Which means you cannot eat, buy gas, go out, or do anything for 2 entire years. You must save every single penny of your paycheck to afford the difference!

Here are more examples of what they could have bought with the amount the went over budget by:

Conclusion

Next time instead of jumping to conclusions and “just doing it”:

  1. Take some time to gather more information. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  2. Get more information people who have already done it, not the people who are trying to sell it.
  3. Seek the devils advocate and seriously consider what they have to say. You might be just confirming yourself!
  4. Beware of the shame option. All other options seem great in context to a crappy one.
  5. Gain a greater perspective by considering the opportunity costs.

Featured photo credit: thinker / Dan Mckay via flickr.com

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Last Updated on April 8, 2020

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

9 Tips for Starting a New Job and Succeeding in Your Career

Congratulations, you’re starting a new job! You’re feeling relieved that the interviews and the wait for a decision from the hiring manager is over, and you’ve finally signed the offer.

Feelings of fear and anticipation may surface now as you think about starting work on Monday. Or you may feel really confident if you have plenty of work experience.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones. It’s very common for seasoned professionals to overestimate themselves due to the breadth of their experience.

Companies offer different depths of on-boarding experiences.[1] Ultimately, success in your career depends on you.

Below are 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career.

1. Your Work Starts Before Your First Day

When you prepared for your interview, you likely did some research about the company. Now it’s time to go more in depth.

  • How would your manager like you to prepare for your first day? What are his/her expectations?
  • What other information can your manager provide so that you can start learning more about the role or company?
  • What company policies or reports can you review that can get you acclimatized to your new job and work environment?

You’ll need to embrace a lot of new people and information when you start your new job. What you learn before your first day at work can help you feel more grounded and prepare your mind to process new information.

2. Know Your Role and the Organization

Review the job posting and know your responsibilities. Sometimes, job postings are simplified versions of the job description. Ask your manager or human resources if there is a detailed job description of your role.

Once you understand your key responsibilities and accountabilities, ask yourself:

  • What questions do you have about the role?
  • What information do you need to do your job effectively?
  • Who do you need to meet and start building relationships with?

Continue to increase your knowledge and do your research through the company Intranet site, organizational charts, the media, LinkedIn profiles, the industry and who your company competitors are.

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This is not a one time event. Continue to do this throughout your time with the company. Every team or project you engage with will evolve and change.

Keep current and be ready to adapt by using your observational skills to be aware of changes to your work environment and people’s behaviour.

3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work

Understanding your work culture is key to help you succeed in your career.

Many of these unwritten rules will not be listed on company policies. This means you’ll need to use all of your senses to observe the environment and the people within it.

What should you wear? See what your peers and leaders are wearing. Notice everything from their jewelry down to their shoes. Once you have a good idea of the dress code you can then infuse your own style.

What are your hours of work? What do you notice about start, break and end times? Are your observations different from what you learned at the interview? What questions do you have based on your observations? Asking for clarity will help you make informed decisions and thrive in a new work setting.

What are the main communication channels?[2] What communication mediums do people use (phone, email, in-person, video)? Does the medium change in different work situations? What is your manager’s communication style and preference? These observations will help you better navigate your work environment and thrive in the workplace.

4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions

You got the job, you’re feeling confident and are eager to show how you can contribute. Check the type of language you are using when you’re approaching your work and sharing your experiences.

I’ve heard many new employees say:

  • “I used to do this at ‘X’ company …”
  • “When I worked at “X” company we implemented this really effective process …”
  • “We did this at my other company … how come you guys are not …”
  • “Why are you doing that … we used to do this …”

People usually don’t want to hear about your past company. The experiences that you had in the past are different in this new environment.

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Remember to:

  • Notice your assumptions
  • Focus on your own work
  • Ask questions, and
  • Learn more about the situation before offering suggestions.

You can then better position yourself as a trusted resource that makes informed decisions tailored to business needs.

5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification

Contrary to common belief, asking questions when you’re starting a new job is not a vulnerability.

Asking relevant questions related to your job and the company:

  • Helps you clarify expectations
  • Shows that you’ve done your research
  • Demonstrates your initiative to learn

Seeking to clarify and understand your environment and the people within it will help you become more effective at your job.

6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand

Starting a new job is the perfect time to set clear expectations with your manager and colleagues. Your actions and behaviors at work tells others about your work style and how you like to operate. So it’s essential to get clear on what feels natural to you at work and ensure that your own values are aligned with your work actions.

Here are a few questions to reflect on so that you can clearly articulate your intentions and follow through with consistent actions:

Where do you need to set expectations? Reflect on lessons learned from your previous work experiences. What types of expectations do you need to set so that you can succeed?

Why are you setting these expectations? You’ll likely need to provide context and justify why you’re setting these boundaries. Are your expectations reasonable? What are the impacts on the business?

What are your values? If you value work life balance, but you’re answering emails on weekends and during your vacation time, people will continue to expect this from you. What boundaries do you need to set for yourself at work?

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What do you want to be known for? This question requires some deep reflection. Do you want to be known as a leader who develops and empowers others? Maybe you want to be known for someone who creates an environment of respect where everyone can openly share ideas. Or maybe you want to be someone who challenges people to get outside their comfort zones?

7. Manage Up, Down, and Across

Understanding the work styles of those around you is key to a successful career. Particularly how you communicate and interact with your immediate manager.

Here are a few key questions to consider:

  • How can you make your manager’s job easier?
  • What can you do to anticipate her/his needs?
  • How can you keep them informed (and prepared) so they don’t get caught off-guard?
  • What are your strengths? How can you communicate these to him/her so that they fully understand your capabilities?

These questions can also apply if you manage a team or if you deal with multiple stakeholders.

8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company

It’s important to keep learning from diverse groups and individuals within the company. You’ll get different perspectives about the organization and others may be able to help you succeed in your role.

What types of relationships do you need to build? Why are you building this relationship?

Here are some examples of workplace relationships:

  • Immediate Manager. He/she controls your work assignments. The work can shape the success of your career.
  • Mentors. These are people who are knowledgeable about their field and the company. They are willing to share their experiences with you to help you navigate the workplace and even your career.
  • Direct Reports. Your staff can influence how successful you are at meeting your goals.
  • Mentees. They are another resource to help you keep informed about the organization and your opportunity to develop others.

Other workplace relationships include team members, stakeholders, or strategic partners/sponsors that will advocate for your work.

Learn more in this article: 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

“Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” – Michelle Obama

You are part of an ecosystem that has gotten you to where you are today. Every single person and each moment that you have encountered with someone has shaped who you are – both positive and negative.

Here’s How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

Make sure you continue to nurture the relationships that you value and show gratitude to those who have helped you achieve your goals.

Summing It Up

There are many aspects of your career that you are in control of. Observe, listen, and make informed decisions. Career success depends on your actions.

Remember to not assume that your new work environment will be similar to previous ones.

Here are the 9 tips for starting a new job and succeeding in your career:

  1. Your Work Starts Before Your 1st Day
  2. Know Your Role and the Organization
  3. Learn the Unwritten Rules at Work
  4. Be Mindful of Your Assumptions
  5. Ask Questions and Seek Clarification
  6. Set Clear Expectations to Develop Your Personal Brand
  7. Manage Up, Down, and Across
  8. Build Relationships Throughout the Company
  9. Keep in Touch With Those in Your Existing Network

Celebrate, enjoy your new role, and take good care of yourself!

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Featured photo credit: Frank Romero via unsplash.com

Reference

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