6 Reasons We Make Bad Decisions, and What to Do About Them

HBR article by Mike Erwin

Research has shown that that the typical person makes about 2,000 decisions every waking hour. Most decisions are minor and we make them instinctively or automatically — what to wear to work in the morning, whether to eat lunch now or in ten minutes, etc. But many of the decisions we make throughout the day take real thought, and have serious consequences. Consistently making good decisions is arguably the most important habit we can develop, especially at work. Our choices affect
our health, our safety, our relationships, how we spend our time, and our overall well-being. Based on my experiences from three deployments as an Army officer and from researching Lead Yourself First, I’ve found the following mindsets to be detrimental to good decision-making. When you have to make an important decision, be on the lookout for:

Decision fatigue. Even the most energetic people don’t have endless mental energy. Our ability to perform mental tasks and make decisions wears thin when it’s repeatedly exerted. One of the most famous studies on this topic showed that prisoners are more likely to have parole approved in the
morning than when their cases are heard in the afternoon. With so many decisions to make, especially ones that have a big impact on other people, it’s inevitable to experience decision fatigue. To counter it, identify the most important decisions you need to make, and, as often as possible, prioritize your time so that you make them when your energy levels are highest.

A steady state of distraction. The technology tsunami of the past decade has ushered in an era of unprecedented convenience. But it’s also created an environment where information and communication never cease. Researchers estimate that our brains process five times as much
information today as in 1986. Consequently, many of us live in a continuous state of distraction and struggle to focus. To counter this, find time each day to unplug and step back from email, social media, news, and the onslaught of the Information Age. It’s easier said than done, but doable if you
make it a priority.

Lack of input. The Kellogg School recently found that in a typical meeting, an average of three people do 70% of the talking. As author Susan Cain articulates so well in her book Quiet, many introverts are reluctant to speak up in a meeting until they know precisely what they want to say. Yet, these
members of our teams often have some of the best ideas to contribute, since they spend so much of their time thinking. To counter this inclination, send out a meeting agenda 24 hours in advance to give everyone time to think about their contributions, and work to set a meeting culture that allows
people to contribute their ideas after the meeting is over.

Multi-tasking. There aren’t many jobs left in the world today that don’t require at least some multitasking. While that’s the reality, research clearly shows that performance, including decision-making effectiveness, suffers by up to 40% when we focus on two cognitive tasks at the same time. When
you need to make important decisions, carve out and commit to several blocks of time during the day to focus deeply on the task at hand.

Emotions. Experiencing frustration, excitement, anger, joy, etc., is a fundamental part of the daily human experience. And while these emotions have a meaningful role in our lives, you probably don’t need to see the research to know that our emotions, especially during moments of peak anger and happiness, can hinder our ability to make good decisions. Deciding to speak or send an email while angry often compounds a tough situation, because the words don’t come out right. To counter this, pay attention to your emotional state and focus on the character strength of self-control. Resist the temptation to respond to people or make decisions while you’re emotionally keyed up. Practice walking away from the computer or putting the phone down, and return to the task at hand when
you’re able to think more clearly and calmly.

Analysis Paralysis. While the Information Age has gifted us with an abundance of information, big data, and metrics, there’s also no end to the amount of information we can access. And we know that the more information we have to consider, the longer we typically take to make a decision. While the decision-making process should be thorough, the best way to make good decisions is usually not to take more time or to look at more information. Instead, review the pertinent information you need,
set a deadline to make a decision, and then stick to it.

The decisions we make determine our reality. They directly impact how we spend our time and what information we process (or ignore). Our decisions shape our relationships — and increasingly in today’s hyper-connected world, decisions contribute to our energy level and how efficient we are in
the various aspects of our lives. Inevitably, we all make some poor decisions every single day. But if we are aware of these six enemies of good decision-making, and take steps to outmaneuver them, we can make better decisions that have a positive impact on the people we work with and lead.

Mike Erwin is the co-author of Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude and CEO of the Character & Leadership Center. He is also the president of The Positivity Project and a Lt. Colonel in the Army Reserve, assigned to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as an Assistant Professor in Leadership & Psychology.










How to be ruthless with your time and support your team at the same time.

Unless you’re a one-person operation, time management requires you to consider how your practices impact everyone else.

Your time is a precious commodity. It’s your one nonrenewable resource, and it’s something that you can’t get back. As linguists George Lakoff and Mark Johnson have noted, the metaphors we use around time reflect sacred scarcity. We say time is money. We invest, save, protect, spend, audit, give, squander, waste, and budget our time.

It’s unsurprising that time management ranks as one of the biggest challenges in the modern workplace. To maximize efficiency at work, you need to be hard-nosed with your time. And there are a host of productivity tools designed to help you do just that: the Pomodoro Technique, Kanban Board, Eisenhower Matrix, time audits, and so on. However, unless you’re a one-person operation, you can’t rely on these tools alone. You also need to communicate your time-management approaches to your colleagues.

The key is to be ruthless with your time without being ruthless with your team. At LifeLabs Learning, we study what makes unusually productive teams and leaders different. Below are eight tools we’ve collected from our research to help reach that mutually happy quadrant where you can manage your time and support your team at the same time.

1. Do a precheck

If you’re trying out a new time habit, check in with people who might feel the impact ahead of time. Make sure that you explain the reasoning for the change, and do so with empathy.

“I’m trying out X to be more efficient with my time. However, I understand this may impact you and would love to set up a time for us to problem-solve together.”

2. Have a trade-off conversation

If someone asks you to do something that interferes with your current workflow, let them know what that entails and make them part of the solution.

“I can do X, but it means I can’t do Y. I think I should stick to X because it’s imperative to the company at the moment. What are your thoughts?”

3. Show the pie

Create a quick visual of what’s on your plate. For example, one team we studied had a “key lime pie of productivity,” and each project represented a slice. When someone asked for help, they showed their pie as a way to decide which slices they could exchange.

“I don’t want to sound like a jerk, but here is what my to-do list looks like at the moment. Do you see this request as more critical than one of these items? If not, I would still love to help in the future. My earliest available date is . . .”

4. Create if-then rules

This is a set of rules that automate actions. If X, then Y. For example, if you’re the manager who continually gets bombarded with questions, then ask your team to come up with at least one solution before asking for help. This if-then will not only save you time but will also help your employees become more independent.

On the flip side, if your manager regularly “surprises” you with requests, instead of reactively reprioritizing your whole day, then politely ask about urgency and/or share trade-offs.

5. Create “dark time”

This is a term that we use at LifeLabs Learning to describe the times that employees aren’t available to work (usually after 6 p.m. or on weekends). Having such norms also prevents burnout. For leaders, it’s essential to model this behavior and hold others accountable as well.

“I’ve noticed that a few people on the team communicate during off hours. I was wondering if we could establish an explicit norm around when we should/shouldn’t expect people to reply. What are your thoughts on this?”

6. Hold “office hours”

Creating new time habits at work can induce anxiety. People may feel like they’re losing access to a valuable resource. That’s why you must schedule a recurring meeting, or “checkpoint,” when people know they can come to you. This gesture is likely to reduce anxiety and unscheduled shoulder-tapping.

“Some of you may have noticed that I’ve made efforts to be more deliberate with my time. That said, in addition to our regular 1-1s, I want you to know that I’m available to meet and discuss anything you need during these hours [list them].”

7. Model time integrity

“Quick question.” “I’ve got a minute.” “EOD.” “ASAP.” These are all examples of being blurry and unspecific about time. The most effective teams we study do something different. They model time integrity and are specific with their communication when it comes to time. Here are a few examples.

“To make sure I can respond on time, can you please specify by when you need this?”

“I have ten minutes to talk now. Is that enough time? If not, let’s schedule a time that works.”

“To make sure I’m focused on this conversation, how long do you think we need?”

The magic of time integrity lies not only in being specific about your own time but also in respecting the other person’s request and time.

8. Do a calendar cleanse

In many organizations we work with, it’s hard to say “no” or “not now” to meetings. Often, you feel like you’re violating a cultural norm. But at the same time, most people feel like they’re spending way too much time in pointless meetings. If you’re not sure if a meeting is a good use of your time, get in the habit of asking.

“Thanks for inviting me. So that I can contribute well, can you share the agenda or goal of the meeting?”

If, after receiving a response, you feel that the meeting isn’t a top priority, then politely decline.

“Thanks again for inviting me. To stay efficient, I would prefer to collect a summary of what was decided/discussed. Does that work?”

By using these methods, it’s possible to manage your time and maintain a positive relationship with your coworkers. The key is learning to communicate preemptively, set expectations, make people part of the process, and find structured and creative ways to solve problems together.

This article was written by Roi Ben-Yehuda he is a leadership trainer at LifeLabs Learning, where he helps people at innovative companies (like Squarespace, Tumblr, Venmo, WeWork, and Warby Parker) master life’s most useful skills.

This HBR article shares that it’s not either/or for companies deciding to get through an economic crisis. It’s BOTH/AND. Saving in some areas and investing in others is key.

Save or Invest? How Companies Should Navigate Recessions

by Ioannis Ioannou and Caroline Flammer

The financial crisis and economic meltdown of 2007-2009 was disruptive for firms across industries, markets, and geographies.  It resulted in the collapse of the financial sector, radical changes in the regulatory and policy environment, and a severe contraction of the world economy. In fact, an economic meltdown of this magnitude fundamentally affects all aspects of firms’ business environment, unsettles their relationships with customers, employees, suppliers, and local communities, and generates a major shift in the competitive landscape. Consequently, companies are likely to fundamentally rethink and reshape their strategic investments to ensure survival and sustain (or even enhance) their competitiveness during and after the crisis.

Indeed, one of the major challenges of an economic meltdown for strategic management is that it exacerbates resource constraints. As a result, companies might need to make fewer investments and divest from at least some of their previous ones in order to ensure survival in the short run. Doing so is a balancing act though, as divesting from too many resources — or picking the wrong ones — could jeopardize a firm’s ability to thrive in the long run.

Despite the severity of economic meltdowns, we know little about how exactly firms adjust their resource base as they navigate through the shifting landscape and new economic realities. To understand this phenomenon and its implications for companies, we set out to investigate how companies adjusted their strategic investments, i.e. their workforce, capital expenditures (CAPEX), R&D, and CSR investments. More specifically, we asked: How did companies adjust their resource base during the Great Recession of 2007-2009? Did they try to “save their way” or “invest their way” out of the crisis? In which direction and to what extent did they adjust their strategic investments to survive or even enhance their competitiveness?

It’s not obvious whether firms would decrease, maintain, or increase their investments, on average, since an economic meltdown presents firms with both challenges and opportunities. On one hand, an economic crisis may severely undermine firms’ ability to undertake investments because they’re short on cash. As a result, firms may lay off employees, divest from their physical assets, postpone or even cancel R&D projects, or eliminate CSR programs in order to maintain cash flows. In other words, firms may try to save their way out of the crisis.

On the other hand, an economic crisis may present an opportunity for firms to expand their investments; that is, they may try to invest their way out of the crisis. For example, an economic crisis might generate opportunities to acquire new equipment at lower cost or hire employees at lower wages. Moreover, firms could invest in their innovative capabilities and CSR to strengthen their competitiveness for when the economy recovers.

Using data for U.S. publicly-traded companies, we find that, overall, these firms significantly reduced their workforce and CAPEX during the Great Recession. Yet – remarkably — they maintained the same level of R&D and CSR. (To construct our sample, we use data from Standard and Poor’s Compustat database. After merging it with the KLD database – our source of CSR data – and with loan data from DealScan, we arrive at a sample of 670 companies for our main analysis.)

These findings suggest that companies, on average, responded to the crisis by following a “two-pronged” approach of simultaneously “saving their way out of the crisis” by reducing their workforce and CAPEX, and “investing their way out of the crisis” by sustaining their investments in R&D and CSR.  Therefore, our results imply that innovation capability and stakeholder relationships were seen as instrumental in sustaining firms’ competitiveness during the Great Recession.

Importantly, we observe considerable differences across industries. While we find that on average firms did not reduce their investments in R&D and CSR, we document that some firms did—namely firms operating in less R&D-intensive and less CSR-sensitive industries, respectively. This result makes sense since, in these industries, firms’ competitiveness is less likely to depend on their innovative capability and stakeholder relations, respectively. The takeaway is that industry characteristics matter in understanding how firms adjust their resource base in response to an economic meltdown.

Finally, we examine whether companies that sustained their investments in R&D and CSR perform better in the years following the economic meltdown. We find that indeed they do. They exhibit higher operating performance—as measured by the return on assets (ROA)—in the post-crisis years. In contrast, we find that companies that maintained their workforce and CAPEX did not achieve higher performance. We also find that firms that pursue the two-pronged approach of simultaneously maintaining their R&D and CSR while reducing their workforce and CAPEX achieve an even higher performance in the post-crisis years.

Our findings therefore suggest that companies choose to maintain their investments in R&D and CSR as these resources may enable them to address key challenges that arise during the meltdown. First, by maintaining their investments in R&D during the meltdown, companies may find innovative ways to become more efficient—i.e., to do more with less—thereby enhancing their ability to maneuver through the meltdown. Second, communication and collaboration with the firm’s stakeholders are important factors in the firm’s processes. In this regard, firms that continue investing in stakeholder relations are likely better positioned to understand the changing conditions inherent to an economic meltdown, identify concerns and opportunities, and adapt to the shifting needs, demands, and expectations of suppliers, consumers, and other stakeholders, compared to firms that curtail such investments. Third, CSR can help firms differentiate themselves from their competitors, enhance firms’ ability to recover from unfavorable situations, strengthen connections with the local communities, improve labor productivity, enhance consumer loyalty, improve access to government procurement contracts, and lower capital constraints. These mechanisms are likely to be especially important during an economic meltdown, as they can improve companies’ resilience and, as a result, help companies maintain or even enhance their competitiveness.

Taken together, our findings suggest that firms that simultaneously “save their way out of the crisis” (by reducing their workforce and CAPEX) and “invest their way out of the crisis” (by sustaining their investments in R&D and CSR) are better able to adapt to the new and unique challenges brought about by an economic meltdown.

From Dr. Henry Cloud: Making a change means making a change…

To get to the next level, we need to improve. Whether it’s improving your skills, your performance or even your attitude, it can be hard to accept this blunt fact of life.

See, improvement speaks to the closing of a metaphorical gap. Where we are now and where we want to be is separated by ground we have yet to cover. At first, it’s tempting to believe we just need commitment to achieve our goals. 

But there’s a problem. Something’s missing. We haven’t changed in any meaningful way.  We’re still the same person, just with a new sense of discipline.  We inevitably fall into the same traps or hit the same ceilings.

Closing the gap requires a change to the system, opening it up to new things. We need new sources of energy and intelligence to transform how we approach our goals.

Einstein is often credited with defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. The same applies to the science of improvement. Simply trying harder and willing ourselves to get to the next level always fails. We get tired, discouraged and ultimately demotivated.

The fuel we really need is positive support. The connections we have, our teams and relationships, must fill us with the belief and confidence that we can improve. Intelligence is key. We need to know what we don’t know.  Then we need to fill those holes with new information, intelligence we didn’t have before.

By applying new intelligence to our goals and surrounding ourselves with a strong support team, we equip ourselves with a better arsenal to bridge the gap.  To improve.

Henry

I Was the Only Woman in a Group of Male CEOs. Here’s How the Experience Helped My Company

In January of 2018, I reached out to the head of a local CEO group and inquired about joining.

After a one-on-one phone call to learn more about me and my business goals, he invited me to their next session. The group met for a full day each month. Half the day was spent discussing a specific topic, the rest of the time was spent helping each other with individual issues. I quietly observed the morning session. At the lunch break, as we sat around the table together, the group leader asked me to share my story and more about my business so the other members could get to know me better. Then, he asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” I looked at them all, took a deep breath, and said, 

“Can I call out the elephant in the room? I’m the only woman here. You all are clearly very close and this is a private formum where you can be truly honest about what’s going on in your personal and professional lives. So, I have to ask, do you even want me here? Because I would understand if you wouldn’t, given all that’s going on in the world today.”

I realize that was overly direct, but I wanted to see their initial reactions. Some looked down and away, others looked right at me with a blank face, and a few clearly had a twinkle of a smile in their eyes, laughing at the directness of my question. After what seemed like a really long pause (to me!), one said something to the effect of, “Actually, I’d like to have more women in the group. We need your perspective. Both from your HR and recruiting expertise and from the female point of view.” At which point, a few others nodded and agreed. I then asked the follow-up question:

“Why aren’t there any women currently in the group? Have you ever had any?”

This response was a little bit disheartening. They explained there had been two women in the group previously, but both of their businesses had ultimately failed and they had to quit the group. Not the most reassuring response. But, at the same time, entrepreneurship is hard and many businesses do fail. Plus, they were honest and pointed out there had been several male CEOs who had failed and left the group too. Running a company isn’t easy. That’s why you join a CEO group – to help you feel less isolated and to try to reduce the risk of failure by accessing additional persepctives that challenge you to make more informed business decisions. However, it doesn’t guarantee to make you successful.

I went home that night and told my husband I guessed they likely wouldn’t want me and that I could understand why.

And then, something wonderful happened…

I started to get individiual emails from the CEOs in the group. Each one shared why I should join. They were personal and sincere. It made me really happy. Why? I have lots of amazing female colleagues. I’m talking insanely successful professional women who I adore and respect. But, I don’t have many who have bootstrapped their businesses to the size of mine. Which means, they can’t really offer advice or guidance the way other CEOs who are at the same level as me can. The reality is, there are more male CEOs I can relate to at this stage in my business then female ones. I told the group leader this was the one thing I was most drawn to about the group. And for that reason, I joined.

A year later…

Those meetings were instrumental in taking my business to the next level. Company revenues grew by 50 percent. I learned so much. I had smart people to bounce ideas off of. I was introduced to some new resources and key networking contacts. But honestly, the most important thing this group gave me was the confidence to push the business to the next level. These guys made me feel capable. They showed me I wasn’t alone and that I didn’t need to be perfect. This particular group of male CEOs was much more comfortable with competition and failure than I was. Listening to them work through their own business challenges helped me be less emotional and hard on myself. They never treated me like a woman, they treated me like a peer. And for that, I am truly grateful.

So, when I see the statistic that came out this week that says 60 percent of men are avoiding mentoring women due to the #MeToo movement, I am sad.

I want men and women to find a way to work together. This movement wasn’t meant to build a divide between us. It was meant to help us work better together. We have so much to learn from one another. While I wish I had some suggestions to fix it, all I can offer is this story in hopes it inspires men out there to find a way to mentor women who need it. 

Published on: May 22, 2019 by Inc.com

Better to have a GOOD BOSS in a bad company, rather than a BAD BOSS in a good company ! Agree ?

While I was waiting for my INTERVIEW in a reception area, a pizza delivery man, a young guy, dressed in a T-shirt and jeans carried a heavy pack of pizza boxes and water bottles.

 He struggled with the door, I jumped up, but before I could help him, a receptionist let him through.

5 mins later I am sitting in the interview conference room, the pizza delivery man walks in.

He extends his hand for a handshake and says:

“I am Greg Tagaris, Chief Information Officer of DoubleClick. Sorry I am a little late, I was taking food to my guys. They are working without lunch because we have technical problems.

I saw you trying to help me, thanks”.

He offered me a job right at the end of the interview, and I accepted, without negotiation.

Greg was one of many good bosses I had a good fortune to work for.

You can tell a good boss very quickly by how they treat other people.

Greg was a good boss in a good company, but I would work for him in any company.

A bad boss can make your job bad even in a very good company – they will micromanage you, blame you, and make your life miserable.

A good boss will stand up for you, will trust you, will listen to you, will make yours a good job even in a weak company.

Do you agree ?

10 Questions Leaders Must Answer When Making Big Decisions

Interesting insight from Speaker, Author and Fellow Vistage Chair Greg Bustin.

Leaders are in the decision-making business. Some of your decisions are bigger than others, and so to be considered successful on your terms as well as the terms of others means you must make more good decisions than bad decisions when the stakes are highest.

What’s your decision-making process? There are 10 questions leaders must answer—either intentionally or intuitively, either alone or collaboratively—when making big decisions.

At the heart of sound decision-making is being crystal clear about what you stand for. Because no matter how much more complex the world seems to become and no matter how much more quickly we race to outrun others, great leaders operate from a set of principles they use daily as filters for making decisions. Your mettle as a leader is not truly tested until your principles have the potential to cost you something. Money. Power. Position. Lives. Reputation. Your beliefs form the bedrock of your character. And your character drives your decision-making.

You also must know very clearly what you want. It’s hard to be committed—especially to an outcome that may stretch your abilities as well as those of your colleagues—if you’re not clear about what you want. And what you don’t want. Goal clarity helps you minimize distractions and gives you confidence to make the necessary—and sometimes difficult—decisions that will allow you and your team to remain focused on your desired outcomes and remember why those outcomes matter. Clarity equips you to overcome obstacles, endure sacrifice and withstand setbacks as you press on toward realizing your dream.

And so the next time you’re facing a big decision, ask and answer these 10 questions:

1. What are the facts?
2. What is our objective?
3. What—precisely—is the problem or set of problems we must solve to achieve our objective?
4. Who should be involved in helping reach a decision?
5. What are all of the possible solutions?
6. Are the possible solutions aligned with my (our) core values? Eliminate those possible solutions that are not.
7. What are the consequences of each of the remaining solutions?
8. What’s the best possible solution?
9. How must we communicate this solution to our stakeholders?
10. Who will do what by when?

As you think about your personal leadership style and how you’ll apply these decision-making guidelines, recall the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt: “There are many ways of moving forward but only one way of standing still.” So when you postpone a tough decision—when, in effect, you fail to decide—you are actually making a decision to do nothing.

It’s logical when facing a momentous decision to want to gather as many facts as possible, play out as many scenarios as you can devise, test theories, engage in conversations with confidantes and trusted advisors, and spend time alone soul-searching. You owe it to yourself and those you’re leading to be thoughtful about big decisions. But avoid the temptation to postpone a big decision simply because you don’t want to decide. Leadership requires you to make the tough decision and get your team moving.

The word “decide” is derived from Latin decidere, meaning literally “to cut off,” from de- “off” (de-) + caedere “to cut” (-cide). “Decide” shares the same partial origin as the words “homicide,” “pesticide” and “suicide,” which essentially means that to decide is to “cut off” or “kill off” other choices or options in order to choose a course of action. Sometimes you must choose between several bad options. But choose you must.

Failure to act saps time, money and energy. Failure to act can hurt your customers and help your competition. Failure to act confuses and discourages your colleagues. Your colleagues are looking for a commonsense approach where trust, discipline and good old fashioned hard work gets things done. Confident decision-making accompanied by decisive action is a one-two punch that’s important to any leader whose team is eager to contribute to success.

Once you decide, move forward. “Don’t make the same decision twice,” cautions Bill Gates. “Spend time and thought to make a solid decision the first time so that you don’t revisit the issue unnecessarily. If you’re too willing to reopen issues, it interferes not only with your execution but also with your motivation to make a decision in the first place. After all, why bother deciding an issue if it isn’t really decided?” 

What big decisions are on your horizon? What options must you “kill off” in order to make your next big decision?

Leadership is about coaching. Here’s how to do it well.

You can start with one simple behavior change that will bring a massive impact.

If you’re a leader or a manager, you probably wear a lot of hats. You’re a project manager, delegator, spokesperson, and most importantly, a coach. But the problem is that no one ever tells you how to be an effective coach, or even what that means. Are you supposed to act like a sports coach? A therapist? Perform some bizarre (and arcane) HR ritual?

The answer is none of the above. In fact, it’s about making one tiny change to your behavior, one that will bring a significant impact. Being a coach is about being more curious, and being slow to give advice and take action.

Now, I’m not saying that that coaching never involves giving advice. At times, your job is to provide an answer. If the building’s burning down–for example–you don’t want to have a conversation about how people are feeling about the smell of smoke.

But the truth is, most of us are advice-giving maniacs. We don’t listen as much as we should. Think about the last time someone talked to you about a complex issue. Did you listen intently? Chances are, after about three sentences, you formed some initial thoughts, and you probably jumped in to voice them.

Start with a simple question

It’s a simple concept to understand, yet it’s difficult to implement. According to a 2015 survey, on average GPs interrupt their patients after 18 seconds. I wouldn’t bet on managers doing much better.

Being curious involves asking questions–and they don’t have to be complicated ones. Start with, “And what else?”

Yes, it’s hardly the probing, introspective coaching question you expect. But it works really well.

It is based on the understanding that the first answer someone gives is never their only answer, and it’s rarely their best. Far too many of us spring into action before we’ve uncovered the truth. We don’t probe a little further to dig beyond their half-baked thought or the first thing that’s come to their minds. “And what else?” allow us to push a little deeper.

This question works so well is that it’s a self-management tool. You know you have an ingrained habit of leaping in with advice, solutions, opinions, and ideas. We all do. “And what else?” is one of the most effective ways of taming your inner advice monster and staying curious a little bit longer.

How to ask the question effectively

This question is powerful because it’s almost always usable. You can generally get more bang for your buck by following up with “And what else?”

Of course, tone matters. You can ask this question from a place of boredom, frustration, disinterest, or disdain, and it’s unlikely to be effective. But when you ask from a place of genuine curiosity, the other person won’t even register that it’s a question. They might not even click that you’ve asked this before.

If you feel like you need to move things forward or end the conversation, ask them, “is there anything else?” This indicates that you’re prepared to end the discussion, but you’re giving room for anything important that they might still want to bring up. It’s an emotionally intelligent way to send a signal that you’re about to close the conversation.

Coaching is an essential leadership behavior. Curiosity is the driving force in being more coach-like. Questions fuel curiosity. If you’re looking for just one question to add right now to your leadership repertoire, “And what else?” might be it. Remember, as a leader or manager, your job is not to have all the answers–but to guide your employees to come up with the right ones.

5 innovation lessons from top-performing companies

Never stop improving. High-performing companies are relentlessly focused on improving their performance through innovation, whether that’s aimed at accelerating processes, tightening workflows or clarifying communications. How do they succeed? By creating a culture that encourages exploration and experimentation, facilitates open communication with customers and employees, and drives innovation from both the top-down and bottom-up. At a higher level, the company’s senior team recognizes innovation as a key source of competitive advantage.

Seek out radical innovation on a smaller scale. What makes an innovation “radical” has nothing to do with size and everything to do with impact. Radical innovation is about breaking through perceived limitations to fundamentally change the game. For example, introducing a new product or capability, along with a new message to market, can serve as radical innovation on a smaller scale. Driving disruption can lead to tremendous rewards, but it requires tough decision-making and strong leadership on the part of the CEO.

If something breaks, use innovative thinking to fix it. All companies have to cope with the reality that, at some point, some part of their business is going to break or go wrong. What separates the high-performing companies from the pack is how they react to that challenge. They assess the situation quickly. They pivot rapidly to an innovative solution. They rally teams around the goals of that solution. By contrast, low-performing companies are quick to assign blame. They wait for others to fix the problem. They use outdated solutions to address new challenges.

Picture your worst-case scenario. What would you do if Amazon announced a solution that targeted your customers and made your go-to-market model irrelevant? More likely, what would you do if a competitor acquired a smaller player and boxed you in? What if they launched a new product or hired a superstar from your best region? Prepare for these worst-case scenarios by working through them in advance with your team. Set up a one-day offsite exercise where you proactively address these scenarios and brainstorm innovative solutions.

Leverage the relentless pace of change. Respect the fact that there is no status quo anymore, and that everything changes all the time. As a CEO, the question you must ask yourself is: Do I recognize, anticipate and leverage the current pace of change, or do I wait for a crisis to hit that will force me to innovate under pressure? In either case, innovation is required for survival and growth. Better to choose the former.

Above is an excerpt. For the full Vistage report click the link below.

How not to choke under pressure

The right kind of preparation can keep us from stumbling during stressful situations, says cognitive scientist Sian Leah Beilock

“They choked.”

It’s one of the most humiliating things you can say about a person.Just about all of us have choked at some point in our lives, whether it was during a test, a game, a talk, or a sales call.

And, boy, do I know the feeling. Growing up, I was an avid athlete. My main sport was soccer, and I was a goalkeeper, which is both the best and the worst position on the field. All eyes are on you, and with that comes the pressure. I distinctly remember one high-school game in particular. I was playing for the California state team, which is part of the Olympic Development Program. I was having a great game — until I realized that the national coach was standing right behind me. Then everything changed. In a matter of seconds, I went from playing at the top of my ability to the very bottom. I choked under the pressure of feeling those evaluative eyes on me, my team lost, and the national coach walked away.

My experience on the playing field — and in other important facets of my life — pushed me into the field of cognitive science. I wanted to know how we could use our knowledge of the mind and the brain to come up with psychological tools that would help us perform at our best.

I also wanted to find out: Why do we sometimes fail to perform up to our capabilities when the pressure is on? 

It might not be so surprising to you to hear that in stressful situations, we worry — about the situation, the consequences, and what others will think of us.

But what may surprise you is that we often get in our own way precisely because our worries prompt us to concentrate too much. When we’re concerned about performing our best, we may try and control aspects of what we’re doing that are best left on autopilot and outside conscious awareness. As a result, we mess up.

My research team and I have studied this phenomenon of overattention, which we call paralysis by analysis. 

In one study, we asked college soccer players to dribble a soccer ball and to pay attention to an aspect of their performance that they wouldn’t otherwise attend to. Specifically, we asked them to pay attention to what side of their foot was contacting the ball. We found that when we drew their attention to the step-by-step details of what they were doing, their performance was slower and more error-prone. Much of this paralysis by analysis comes down to activity in our prefrontal cortex, the front part of our brain that sits over our eyes. While it usually helps us focus in positive ways, it often gets hooked on the wrong things.

In basketball, the term “unconscious” is used to describe a shooter who just can’t seem to miss a shot. NBA All-Star Tim Duncan has said, “When you have to stop and think, that’s when you mess up.” In dance, the great choreographer, George Balanchine, used to urge his dancers, “Don’t think; just do.” When the pressure’s on, we frequently try and control what we’re doing in a way that leads to worse performance.

So how do we unhook our brains?

We can do something as simple as singing a song or paying attention to one’s pinky toe — as pro golfer Jack Nicklaus was rumored to do. Or, we can find some other mindless activity that can help take our minds off the details of what we’re trying to do.

Another strategy requires closing the gap between training and competition, so we can get used to that feeling of all eyes on us. 

This means practicing under the conditions that we know we’ll be performing under. Whether we’re getting ready for an exam or a talk, we can put ourselves in a simulation of the future stressful situation.

If you’re taking a test, periodically close the book while you’re studying and practice retrieving the answers from memory in a set amount of time. If you’re giving a talk, practice a few times in front of other people. And if you can’t find anyone who will listen, rehearse in front of a video camera or a mirror. Our ability to become accustomed to what it will feel like can make the difference in whether we choke or we thrive.

We can also take steps to rid ourselves of those pesky self-doubts that creep up in pressure-filled situations and lead to paralysis by analysis.

Researchers have discovered that simply writing down our thoughts and worries before the stressful event can help download them from our minds. Journaling or jotting your thoughts on paper or on your phone can make it less likely they’ll pop up and distract you during the moments that count.

Fast-forward from my high school soccer game to my freshman year in college. I was in a chemistry class for science majors, and I did not belong there. Even though I studied for my first midterm exam, I bombed. I got the single worst grade in a class of 400 students. Not was I convinced I shouldn’t be a science major but I thought about dropping out of college altogether.

Instead, I changed what I did. 

Rather than study alone, I studied with a group of friends who’d close their books and compete for the right answers at the end of the study session. We were learning how to practice under stress, closing the gap between training and competition.

When the day for the final exam came, my mind was quiet, and I got one of the highest grades in the entire class. As it turns out, it wasn’t just about learning the material; it was about learning how to overcome my limits when it mattered the most.