I was doing some research and came across a piece I wrote up for a project a couple years ago with the folks over at 800CEOREAD. For the piece I interviewed nine authors, Luda Kopeikina was one. Luda wrote the book, The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions. The piece offers a lot of good thoughts on decision making, so check it out.
The Clarity State
A good decision can save a company and a poor one can cause it to sink. Everyday, managers and leaders make decisions and each one changes the company in at least a small way. Some of us agonize over decisions, whereas others make them quickly with ease. I have met managers with excellent judgment and have known some with a few loose screws. Training courses suggest we use cumbersome decision trees and root cause analysis. While these methods are useful, they do not address the mental game of decision-making.
Luda Kopeikina is fascinated by the dynamics of decisions. Why are some leaders able to make better decisions than others? What makes decisions easy or difficult? The results of her research and insights are detailed in, The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions. To research for this book, she spoke to over 100 CEOs from companies of various sizes and industries. When I spoke with Luda, I was struck by her wisdom, wit, and warmth. She has been a sought after leader, expert, and consultant for many years, including stints as a VP at GE under Welch and a CEO; her extensive experience shows through in her suggestions.
I found Luda’s comments about the differences between mature leaders (in terms of both years and experiences) and those with less seasoning very fascinating. She found that mature leaders have more mental control than junior leaders. She measured physical focus by hooking the CEOs she interviewed to a computer program. The mature leaders were focused and calm even when they had major meetings or urgent issues to resolve later in the day. Luda also found successful and mature leaders to be very reflective. They evaluate their decisions and learned from them. They believed that learning from the past is the best way to pursue mastery.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Luda’s research was how she chose to define a correct decision. A correct decision occurs when the decision maker is totally congruent with the decision. Luda chose not to measure whether a decision is correct by the outcome because we can’t control the consequences, we can only control how well we look at the problem or opportunity. She found that mature leaders, those who made more successful decisions, wholeheartedly agreed with her definition. Less experienced leaders tended to define decisions by their outcomes. I thought about how I measure the success of my decisions and can see that my perspective has changed as I have developed. Luda is correct; what is most important is how well we approach, analyze, and evaluate decisions. We will never know all the information, so it is critical that we make the best use of the collective intelligence that surrounds us. In the end, we need to feel good about our decisions.
As Luda interviewed and observed leaders, she began to see a state of being that enabled them to make decisions with ease. She calls this the “Clarity State”. Here’s a brief excerpt from The Right Decision Every Time:
“The key to reaching clarity is the ability to focus your physical, mental and emotional resources at will on a certain issue. With such focus, you can identify the right choice faster, more easily, and with greater certainty and internal alignment. It is a practice that can be acquired. This book presents the elements of this practice. The objective of this book is to present techniques that enable you to reach clarity on difficult, strategic decisions with greater effectiveness, thus increasing your decision-making mastery level. This is the book that I wish I could have read at the beginning of my career.”
The “Clarity State” then, is a measurable state of mental, physical, and emotional coherence that focuses our inner resources. Luda’s suggestions include how to reach a “Clarity State” and how to combine this level of awareness with sound decision-making principles to make the right decisions. Using her process, Luda reports that 93% of CEOs made clear choices, resolving current decision situations within an hour and a half after focusing on them. This is impressive as some of these decisions had been pending for weeks or months.
Characteristics of the “Clarity State”:
• Things become clear and fall into place.
• Emotional relaxation.
• Mentally focused.
• A feeling of contentment.
When we see clearly and align our thinking with our decisions, we are more productive and determined. We are also able to communicate our decisions more clearly. People can sense our clarity and assuredness; thus, they become more likely to support and enroll in the change. In her book, Luda offers several techniques for getting into and maintaining the “Clarity State”. Many middle managers do not allow for the time and energy needed to enter the Clarity State. They remain exhausted which hinders their ability to make the best decisions. Here is a brief list of the “Death Habits” familiar to most managers. Luda says that these habits get in the way of decision making and clarity:
• Death Habit #1 - Multitasking: “In the current business environment, where there is more work in each job position than can be handled, we are taught to multitask. Conventional wisdom says, ‘Never lose a moment-if you are talking on the phone, scan your e-mails at the same time.’ The result is that we never have time to focus! This habit is in sharp contrast to the behavior that peak performers in sports train to achieve. Successful athletes know that when every physical and mental resource is focused, your power to perform multiplies tremendously. In order to outperform others, you have to learn to focus your resources!”
• Death Habit #2 - Be Competitive: “Do not misunderstand me. Competing with yourself is a great habit-pushing yourself to excel at your job, learn new skills faster, develop new competencies, or whatever challenges you want to conquer is a habit worth nurturing. Few people during their lifetime exhaust the resources hidden within them. There are deep wells of strength in each of us that are never used. Learning to tap into this inner power is a worthy pursuit. But the way people understand the conventional wisdom is ‘Be competitive with others.’ In such an interpretation, the measures of progress become outside metrics—an assessment of your performance by others, comparing your status with the status of your coworkers, and so on. The problem is that these outside measures are usually outside of your control. Striving to measure your progress by outside metrics undoubtedly creates stress and negative emotions, such as anxiety and worry. The more you strive to deliver results according to outside metrics, the more stress and pain you create in your life.”
• Death Habit #3 - Work All the Time and Do More: “We are becoming a nation of workaholics. With the advances of cell phones and the Internet, our work is with us all the time— at the dinner table, at the outing with the kids on the beach, and so on. If we let it, our workload can consume us, proliferate stress, and, as a result, lead to continuous operation at a lower brain capacity. You need to save some mental, physical, and emotional resources to regenerate, think, and strategize for the future.”
Whoa! I think most managers would say their days are defined by multitasking and working too much. Many companies strive to create a competitive environment where success is defined by the number of hours worked and the amount of effort expended. I think Luda is making an excellent point that it is time to challenge the current status quo and question whether this is the best, correct, or proper way to work. Her research clearly shows that the best leaders don’t get caught up in this business craziness.
These things get in the way of our focus and clarity--both of which are crucial for decision making. I asked Luda about the biggest barriers to sound decision making. She offered these five common obstacles:
1. Lack of a clear objective – not knowing what you are trying to accomplish.
2. Lack of clear constraints – parameters related to the decision are not established.
3. Difficulty in dealing with emotions.
4. Lack of a clear perspective – unable to define the right context for the decision.
5. Difficulty of select among options – reducing complexity.
Of these barriers, a lack of a clear perspective and objective were the most common and troublesome.
I have heard from many managers who feel frustrated when their senior leaders do not make timely or effective decisions. I asked Luda what advice she would offer to managers in this predicament. Here is her response:
“I don’t think that there is much they can do to convince the boss to make a decision. If the leader is uncomfortable, he or she has not reached clarity. The absence of a decision is a decision. If possible, you can proceed as if the decision has been made. Get the people orchestrated and ready. Most likely it will cause a reaction. You might learn a lot including that you don’t want to work for the boss. Trying to convince the boss will backfire.”
In my experience, every time a senior manager feels pressure to make a decision, he or she ends up becoming more entrenched and uncomfortable. So while we want to be helpful, trying to convince our boss to do something might make our situation worse.
I’ve only scratched the surface of the topics that Luda and I discussed. Her ideas are fresh, but also based on many years of experience and research. I would love to shadow Luda Kopeikina for a day, because I know it would be an amazing learning experience.
Tips from Luda Kopeikina
1. Leadership is to a very large extent an exercise in self-development. The great leaders that I have met all worked on developing themselves first; everything else came second.
2. Carefully select your “Master Mind” group. A great leader is not the one who knows every aspect of the job. He or she is the one who can motivate people to get the job done with passion. Carefully select your team, because the caliber of people on your team will determine the magnitude of your success.
3. Have a clear overarching objective at all times. Over and over again I find managers who are lost in the midst of everyday happenings, emergencies and details. Realize that if you are one of those managers, you are not going anywhere significant. Make sure that you set a clear objective for yourself, your business and your life and always have it in front of you.
4. Face your fears. Stop worrying and start acting. Fears of failure, criticism, and rejection are just examples of fears that have the power to stop us in our tracks and induce indecision and procrastination. They sap our vitality. Convert this worry energy into planning and acting. In many cases, any decision is much better than no decision.
5. Develop “Vision Power.” No leader can succeed without a fully developed sense of vision power — the ability to not only imagine the future but also to find the most effective path to get there.
About Luda Kopeikina:
Luda Kopeikina is an experienced business leader, entrepreneur, scholar, and author. She founded Noventra Corporation in 1999 and spent six years at General Electric in various vice presidential positions where she had an opportunity to work with Jack Welch and observe his methods in action. Later she was President and CEO of Celerity Solutions, Inc. Interactive Week's 1998 Executive Worth Survey ranked Luda within the top 20 CEOs of US high-tech public companies for her performance and total return to shareholders. Luda is a Chairwoman of MIT Enterprise Forum of South Florida and serves on the Board of Directors of several companies. She is also a prominent business speaker and author. She speaks on topics of innovation, entrepreneurship, clear business decision making and leadership. Luda holds a Master's Degree from MIT's Sloan School of Management as a Sloan Fellow. She also holds a Master's Degree in Computer Science from St. Petersburg University, Russia, and completed a Ph.D. thesis in Computer Science there. In 2004 she was appointed a Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Luda’s website is www.ludakopeikina.com.
About the Book:
The Right Decision Every Time: How to Reach Perfect Clarity on Tough Decisions. Published by Prentice Hall, August 2005. ISBN: 0131862626
Other Posts by Lisa Haneberg
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