How to do the stuff that you don't want to do

20 November 2019 -

CanoeYou've made a tough decision, and now you've got to make it happen. First rule: don't beat yourself up over it

Mark Rowland

Lisa Phillips has spent 20 years working with businesses and managers in Australia to help them make better decisions. As a confidence coach, the philosophy she espouses is a simple one: trust your instincts. “It's very simple: would you rather feel good or would you rather feel bad?”

Phillips claims it usually takes management about an hour to come round to her way of thinking, as long as the organisation is open to applying a different mindset.

“Imagine you get up every day and instead of going to work, you get into a canoe,” she says. “You can either go upstream, which is a real effort, or you can go downstream, and go with the flow of the river. That river is your mind – if you go against it, you’re going to struggle.”

At first glance, this doesn’t sound like much use when you have to make tough decisions as a manager every day. Do you just ignore them because they don’t make you feel good? Not quite. Phillips’ ‘feel good, not bad’ ethos is more about awareness and mental framing of situations than ducking out of the hard tasks.

“We've all got to do stuff we don't want to do,” she says. “We have to find a way to do it that feels right.”

Frame it right

Let’s say you've got a really hard decision to make, like letting someone go. No matter how justified that decision might be, it’s not something you’re going to look forward to. New managers in particular struggle with this task. Phillips believes you have a choice in how you frame that decision, and how you act on it.

“Managers struggle with decisions sometimes because they worry about what people are going to think. The question ‘what if I upset somebody?’ makes it a more difficult decision.”

The thing to remember, says Phillips, is that worrying about upsetting someone isn’t going to make the situation easier for them. Your confidence in your decision making, or the company’s decision making, will make the action you need to take much easier.

“It’s part of the job. You don't want to do it, but it's going to help everybody else going forward,” says Phillips. “It’s the right thing for the business. The people are going to be fine, they'll find another job. You need to line yourself up mentally with your decision.”

Articulate your reasoning

Think about the reasons for the decision, perhaps writing them down to help you order your thoughts. Think about the benefits that could potentially arise from acting on that decision. If needs be, confer with another manager to confirm that it’s the right thing to do.

“Remember you’re doing the best that you can. It's not an easy decision, but it’s the right decision, and it'll work out because of that. Support yourself through any difficult decision, instead of beating yourself up.”

If we’re going to be effective managers, we have to make and act on decisions, no matter how tough they are. Acceptance of that is the first step to making it easier. “Soothe and encourage yourself through the decision, because it's our own thoughts and feelings that make it tough – not the situation itself,” says Phillips. “If you have the right mindset, it won’t feel tough anymore.”

For more help with your decision-making process, read our article for six steps that can help you make a good decision or go through our resources on ManagementDirect or on CMI Knowledge Bank.

Image: Michael Niessl Unsplash

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