“Emptiness which is conceptually liable to be mistaken for sheer nothingness is in fact the reservoir of infinite possibilities.”
“When one gets quiet, then something wakes up inside one, something happy and quiet like the stars.”
W. B. Yeats
So. In one piece I wrote, “to do or not to do“, I offered my personal view that “I am a harsh judge on motivation for a decision” and someone asked me about that.
clear your mind unclutterWell. To begin on decision motivation I would suggest that great decision making is about emptying the mind. And, no, I am not talking about stilling the mind or even uncluttering the mind. In this case, it about emptying the mind of egoist <what I will feed my self-belief> & appearances <what will look good> & appeal <what will gain approval> type stuff.
Contrary to the popular opinion, being a business leader is partially a popularity contest and, thankfully, partially not. Your popularity matters in that if you are not liked at all no one wants to follow your leadership. This has to be balanced by the fact making business decisions should never, okay, rarely, be dictated by what would make you popular.
Therefore a business leader has to recognize the delineation in their mind as they ponder decisions.
In business you, of course, have to be watching employee ‘approval’ surveys and organizational cues with regard to happiness, optimism & confidence, but, you have to purposefully empty your mind of all that stuff when it comes to a business decision – in particular on bigger decisions.
Any leader with half a brain knows they must avoid reckless decisions and ineffective energy-sucking initiatives that do little but make people feel good about themselves in the moment.
Any leader with half a brain knows that a bad decision piled on top of another bad decision only deepens a precarious situation and increases the odds you get the business in a situation that has no viable path up & out of it … let alone even create a scenario in which there is actually a viable idea on how to end the slide down
But that is where emptying the mind matters. The brain has to be empty of popularity or ‘what will look good’ or any egoist aspect <like will I look strong/decisive/smart/etc…> which inevitably try and pry their way into your thinking process.
But they do.
But you have to set them aside for a bit.switch off active mind colors
Because by emptying the mind you clear away the crap in order to see the ‘right decision to make’ regardless of optics, popularity or likeability.
Okay. If optics & popularity really do matter <like I said upfront>, then why do you do that?
Because the truth is that once I have the right thing to do I can dress it up in some snazzy outfit to make it, optically, look more popular and likable. And any business leader with half a brain can do that. All this leads me back to my point about judging business leaders based on their motivation.
If a leader feels boxed in, squeezed into having to make a decision, well, there is no real ‘box’ except in that persons’ head. That is a truth. Optically, from the outside looking in, people can construe a box and the leader may mentally say “shit, I am in a box of my own making and I have to do something”, but I struggle to find a situation like this in which you actually have to do something. The optics may not look so fantastic and you may take a hit on popularity, but, any leader worth half a shit knows that any box that can be built can be unbuilt.
I judge harshly those who decide to believe they are in a box they cannot unmake.
Ego. Well. Let’s just say that any business leader worth half a shit has some ego. They have to. It’s part of what makes them feel confident enough to do a job which the majority of people would hesitate to do. And with ego comes along some nasty side effects – how do people feel about me and see me. The good business leaders take what I just wrote and make it “how do people feel about my decisions and see my decision.” They stop worrying about “me” and worry more about “my decision.”
I judge harshly those who decide to believe “feel about me & see me” is any part of their decision.
Now. This motivation is a tricky judgment and, as I noted in ‘to do or not do’, you cannot judge the decision because it is what it is, but should focus on the pre-decision & the post-decision behavior in order to best assess & judge a decision maker’s motivation <albeit if someone has a history of decisions made, a pattern, you can assess the “pre” fairly accurately.>
Post-decision behavior is typically incredibly enlightening.
Say, for example, approval is important. If that is the case then a decision rewarded with greater approval will most likely encourage future decisions.
Or maybe someone wants to look strong. If their decision is rewarded with feedback of “strength” you can almost begin expecting more of those types of decisions.
Or maybe it is likeability. If their decision is rewarded with “happier people” you can start expecting more decisions that facilitate that response.
I imagine my point here is that evaluating someone’s motivation begins and ends with an evaluation of the relationship between the words & the actions. An action can look appealing but you have to lay the words alongside and do a match. For it is within the gaps & the connections in which you can get a sense of the motivation.
You can absolutely get a sense for motivational decision cues by how a business leader describes a decision they made. Oftentimes a leader will use the words they want to hear or are important to them in how they describe what they decided … “we needed to show a sign of strength and, therefore, we decided to do ‘x’.”
That kind of crap.
Words used over and over again are the words they will incorporate into motivations for a specific decision.
To be clear. This ability to empty the mind is not easy. And its difficulty will vary by who you are – the narcissists never can and the humble will almost always. But the truly good business decision makers — the ones who make the best decisions <as in doing the right thing> — will always be able to empty the mind. They will always be able to clear the bad motivations and see their way to the ‘right’ objective driven motivations.
Lastly. Philosophically I have always liked the leaders who are able to empty the mind to make decisions because, well, as the Yeats quote suggests — they are the ones most likely to see the stars too.
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This post was previously published on Enlightened Conflict and is republished with the permission of the author.
Photo Courtesy Pixabay.