4 simple steps to making effective decisions in times of uncertainty

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Business owners face more and more uncertainty due to rapidly changing technology, global economies, and now a global health crisis, and are challenged to make effective decisions on behalf of their company and teams.

Traditional ways of leading employees through a top-down, linear approach are outdated and ineffective. With most employees and managers at large corporations spending less than 6 months on average in a role and having 2.6 managers to report to per year, it’s time to uplevel the way we assess the business landscape and make decisions.

In this article, I’ll share with you four different approaches to take before assessing what’s needed and the effective decisions or actions you can take next.  Your employees, teams, and even your customers are relying on you to do this work to earn their dedication, loyalty, and trust.

Zoom out and remember the big picture from 30,000 ft

  • North Star
  • Company or personal values
  • Your vision of the world or your world AFTER things all work out the way you would wish

The neuroscience – Decrease your emotional connection to the situation.  Imagine that you’re in an airplane taking off from a runway.  As it rises higher and higher the buildings and people on the ground get smaller and smaller.  The details get fuzzier, less clear and you may feel lighter as you lift up into the clear sky or soft pillowy clouds.  When you remove your focus from the immediate and get out of the details, you open the space for more broad, abstract, and creative thinking.  This is the mindset of finding greater solutions to problems and focusing on where you’re really going over where you feel stuck or fearful.

Zoom in and identify the things you can actually control or influence with your choices

  • Make a list of immediate actions that you CAN take or make
  • Reduce anxiety by letting go of worrying about too much in the future
  • Include the feedback from your people on the ground, so you aren’t making decisions in a vacuum

The neuroscience – Conversely to zooming out, by zooming in our focus narrows and we cut out all of the other information that may distract us from the tasks at hand.  MLK said, “Take the first step in faith. You don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step”.  Often people become stuck as a result of too many options without clear knowledge of the outcomes of each potential choice.  This leads to paralysis, overthinking, and indecision. 

In times of stress, indecision can be the worst decision of all.  

Look forward in time and see it from the future

  • How will you feel 5 weeks, months, years in the future about the decision you’re making now?
  • What would your future self advise you about where you’re at right now?
  • Consider how the people around you will feel based on the actions you’re about to take.  How can you include and protect them in your decision-making?

The neuroscience – In behavioral psychology, we call this “future pacing”, which is the process of having the mind visualize a reality where the result or outcome is in our favor. Used heavily in elite sports over the past 100 years, business owners have also started to utilize this process in ideation or creative planning. 

Consider that our thoughts create pictures in our mind and in turn that influences the emotional state we get into and the physical activity down to a cellular level of our bodies.  Yes, that means that focusing on what we fear might happen can change the type of energy we produce, the hormones we release, and the chemicals in our brain that drive focus, action, and the feeling of success or satisfaction.

In times of stress, our attention can go to what isn’t working or what we don’t want to happen thereby creating negative and stuck energy within our bodies. This creates a negative perpetual cycle of destructive thinking leading to destructive action.

Instead, schedule 10 – 30 minutes per week to do this strategy of visualizing the future and pay attention to any signs, insights, landmarks, or wisdom you can garner by doing so.  The more you do this the more effective it can become and some business leaders take 5-10 minutes every day for this one approach.

Look back and draw from past experience

  • As you look back over your life and the lives of your mentors/family, what can you learn from their mistakes or successes to help you now?
  • What are some of the things done, created, or designed that you wish you had a hand in from the past?
  • How do you bring a unique perspective that could help to solve the problems of today?

The neuroscience – when looking at an uncertain future our thoughts, feelings, and behavior is all shaped by the uncertainty, anxiety, and fear produced by not knowing the choices to make or the outcome we will get. When we look back in time we have a more certain view which is more clear, hence the term “hindsight is 20:20”.

By looking into the past we can stretch time out and see it as a series of steps or choices – much like how we saw the lead character play chess on her ceiling in the popular Netflix phenomenon The Queens Gambit. 

We can only see the next step in front of us through our own eyes when we look ahead, though you can do both effectively by working with a skilled hypnotherapist or someone trained in time-based coaching techniques. By going back we are able to see things in a more 3-dimensional way.  We can see ourselves from a third-person perspective allowing us to have more objectivity and wisdom about a situation where our ego isn’t attempting to “win” or get it right. 

We then can bring such wisdom into the present moment and more effective, objective, and conscious decisions to help us navigate our lives and businesses through uncertain times.

These 4 ways of looking at the situations you’re facing will help you stay out of a single-minded view with a limited perspective.

Instead, you’ll be able to utilize more emotional intelligence to develop more trust and loyalty with your teams. In turn, you’ll set up your business for long-term success and steer it into a brand that people love to work at or do business with.

Ben Patwa

Ben Patwa

I help business leaders and entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses by learning sales and marketing strategies to increase revenues. | For over 17 years and across 36 countries, I’ve been a consultant, speaker, and coach to large organizations and entrepreneurs, teaching communication, sales, and the science of influence. | Coach to 87 TEDx Speakers

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About Me

I help business leaders and entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses by learning sales and marketing strategies to increase revenues. | For over 17 years and across 36 countries, I’ve been a consultant, speaker, and coach to large organizations and entrepreneurs, teaching communication, sales, and the science of influence. | Coach to 87 TEDx Speakers

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