There will be a lot of talk about decisions today. It’s the morning after Super Bowl XLIX and there’s plenty of talk. If you are into statistics, it might be interesting to determine the percentage of Monday morning quarterbacks and coaches among the millions of viewers who watched the game last night. Listening to all the buzz stirs my thinking about how decisions are evaluated. There’s no shortage of evaluation today. As I listen to the break down of plays, players, coaches, commercials and entertainment this morning, I have distilled a few questions of my own. It all begins with a two-word question.
What is the role of “What if?” in your leadership? It is a frequent companion to decision-making analysis. The question is only two words and yet it is multi-faceted. The magnitude of the audience doesn’t seem to matter. “What if?” rises to the surface whether a hundred million people are watching and second-guessing your thought process or you make a decision for an audience of one. If a decision does not produce a result to your satisfaction, the two words are bound to come up.
Is there value in asking “What if?” It can be a great question. It depends on how the question is wielded. In the mind of a struggling leader, it can be one of the most debilitating questions possible. If “What if?” begins a debilitating cycle of regret, the productivity of “What if?” is short-lived. If you are spending your time replaying scenarios that will only exist in your imaginary memory, you are investing time and energy that has more to do with your ego and less to do with your vision. You cannot change the past. If “What if?” is overburdened with self-defeating thoughts, you need to delete the replay video in your head and replace it with productive thoughts.
Critical questions have an essential place in effective decision-making. They seldom exist in isolation. Asking yourself and others, “What if?” can yield positive impact on your leadership if the question finds constructive guidance in three companion questions.
Are you leaning forward? When the question “What if?” is connected to a future orientation, the question explodes with possibility. Conversely, when you repeat a question that imprisons you in your past decisions, you will stifle the benefits.
Are you learning? In order to lead, you must learn. Leaders learn best from experience. But, not all leaders choose to learn from the past. Unlock the power of inquiry adopting a resilient attitude. Insist on a constant focus on “lessons learned” from decision-making experiences.
Are you learning together? Toxic thoughts thrive in isolation. Healthy teams ask tough questions together. Gaining multiple perspectives will help you avoid the pitfalls of over-personalizing “What if?” thinking.
The trajectory of the companion questions is the key. The questions will keep you leaning forward and outward. Vision is future oriented. Mission is outward focused. Don’t get stuck inside your head with a question that hinders your personal leadership vision and mission.