Nov. 14, 2022

What should you do when you don’t know what to do? (Challenge #41)

What should you do when you don’t know what to do? (Challenge #41)

Uncertainty is a part of every leader’s life. Kind Leaders try to make effective, humane and collaborative decisions based on what we know about the world around us. However, we inevitably have a partial understanding of the past, a skewed perspective on the present, and no knowledge of the future. Add in the fact that most of us feel a lot of external and internal pressure to do the “right” thing at all times, and you’ve got a recipe for paralysis. That’s why today I’m going to walk you through my framework for making kind leadership decisions—and show you how you can get more comfortable with uncertainty with every decision you make.

Get Unstuck! A course in Kind Leadership Decision-Making

To listen to more episodes, head to Apple Podcasts here!

 

Connect with me:
 Facebook

Instagram

LinkedIn

 

Go to kindleadershipchallenge.com/conversations and enter your email to start having the conversations that will impact your community for the better.

Transcript

Uncertainty is a part of every leader’s life. Kind Leaders try to make effective, humane and collaborative decisions based on what we know about the world around us. However, we inevitably have a partial understanding of the past, a skewed perspective on the present, and no knowledge of the future. Add in the fact that most of us feel a lot of external and internal pressure to do the “right” thing at all times, and you’ve got a recipe for paralysis. That’s why today I’m going to walk you through my framework for making kind leadership decisions—and show you how you can get more comfortable with uncertainty with every decision you make. 

~~~~

Welcome to the Kind Leadership Challenge! I’m Sarah Clark, founder of the Kind Leadership Guild. 

My PhD in higher ed Leadership, my experience advising educational and library leaders all over the world, and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean’s office taught me how any leader in any situation can transform their organization so they can make their communities more educated and informed places to live, work, and thrive. 

Kind Leaders know how to make the tough decisions without becoming jerks. We grow our organizations’ impact without burning anyone out. And we’ve learned that when we stop controlling and start collaborating, the impossible becomes effortless. It all sounds pretty simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. So if you’re up for a challenge, stick around for the next 10 minutes as I teach you to part with perfection so your organization can build a better world. 

~~~

It's weird how we can often make high-stakes, high pressure decisions with ease, but then get mired in uncertainty about the small stuff. Could be decision fatigue, I suppose, but it’s often just good old fashioned overthinking. So take a moment to think of that nagging little challenge you’ve been stuck on recently. We’ve all got one, there’s no shame here. 

Got it? Good. Then let’s make that decision. 

As I said at the top, there are 6 steps to making any challenging leadership decision, whether it’s launching a new program or writing an awkward email. First is Presence, or tuning in to your reasons why you’re feeling so uncertain. What feelings are arising in your body—doubt? Anger? Anxiety? Sadness? Feel and process them. Then consider the stories you’re telling yourself about the situation, the problem, and the stakes. Do those stories match the facts? If not, consider the possibility that a different story might be closer to the truth, which in turn could make what feels like a tricky decision seem a bit simpler. 

So, once you’re clear in your own head about the decision that needs making,  it’s time to get clear on what “done” looks like. That’s where the second skill of kind decisionmaking, foresight, comes in. Where are you going? What do you want tone to look like? What are the stakes if you make the “right” decision? Or the “wrong” one? Once you have the destination in mind, as well as a understanding of the major wrong turns, it’s time to move on to the third step of kind leadership decisionmaking. 

Most of the time we’re stuck with making a decision, it’s because we need to get out of our own heads and stop overthinking. Presence and foresight are important in doing this, but they’re not sufficient. The best way to clear the fog in my own brain is to bring other people into the decision. That’s where the third decisionmaking skill of Empathy comes in.

Empathy’s one of these things that’s simple but not easy. To the degree that’s possible and appropriate, talk to the other people who will be impacted by the decision you need to make. Get their take and perspective on things, and share your own perspective if they’re curious or you think it would help. It’s like the old story of the blind men and the elephant—each person you talk to will be holding on to a different “part” of the problem, and the more of those folks you can connect with, the more complete picture you will all have about the situation. 

As we wrap up the first three skills of kind leadership decisionmaking, you should be feeling a lot more certain in what you want to do. That’s why the next three steps are all about making the decision happen. Because, in my opinion, you haven’t really made any decision unless or until you’re implemented it out in the real world. 

The fourth leadership skill, stewardship, is all about figuring out how much time, energy, and money your organization can and should devote to implementing a decision. On paper, for example, you may have found a cool new open-source tool that will allow you to cancel an expensive subscription to a software package. But the savings in price would come with additional needs for expertise and time from your team to install and administer the “free” solution. Which makes more sense for your situation? 

The Fifth skill of kind leadership is advocacy. It’s kind of the flip side of empathy in some ways—it’s where you take the things you learned from talking to your stakeholders earlier in the process, and incorporate them in your efforts to get the people on board that are needed to implement your decision. You can call it networking or negotiation, but in any case, the mere act of arguing for your decision will remove the last lingering uncertainty around your decision and make the path clear.

And finally, with all that groundwork done, it’s time to determine your decision. Finalize the plan, consult with your stakeholders to make sure they’re done, martial your resource and DO IT.

Make the Call

Write the Email.

Have the challenging conversation.

Cut the Budget.

Ask for the donation.

Take it on

Let it go

Make your impact, whatever it is.

Because that’s how we build a better world.

And that’s your challenge this week. Consider the decision you’re most unsure about, and work through it with the six steps presented in this episode. And if you’re ready to invest a few hours in learning the details of this decisionmaking framework, check out my self-paced course, get unstuck. It takes about 6 hours to work through, but for an investment of $197 you’ll learn a game plan to make kind leadership decisions in any situation. It’s based on the lessons I’ve learned on my own kind leadership journey, as well as the experiences of my coaching clients over the years as they’ve worked toward making more effective, humane, and collaborative decisions that will transform schools and libraries into the strongest resources they can be for your community. If that sounds like your thing, visit https://kindleadershipchallenge.com/getunstuck . Link’s in the show notes too.

~~~ 

Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week’s episode insightful, give the show a rating or review—or even better, share this episode with your fellow leaders!  Never doubt that day by day, you’re building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.  

window.lintrk('track', { conversion_id: 10087313 });