EM 179 | Wrestling Through Trade-offs


In this week’s Executive Minds, Shane and David discuss wrestling through trade-offs. All leaders have to deal with trade-offs. It’s a necessity of leadership. Whether we’re in charge of a team, a project, or work in general, we all have to make decisions on behalf of what we’re trying to accomplish. This conversation cuts to the heart of the tension that exists in making those strategic decisions and lays out some points on how to navigate that give and take. We think this discussion will prove helpful for you as we pivot to the 2nd half of an eventful 2020. Thanks for tuning in!

Links + Resources: n/a

Key Takeaways:

Leaders are at their best when being in the middle of the mess.

The essence of strategy is all about making trade-offs. Leaders are at their best when they’re in the middle of the mess. The mess is at the core of the trade-offs. It may be good for the business, but is it good for the people in the business? Should an event be live or virtual?

Do I organize my business around key leaders or key projects/workstreams? Do I choose to cut back my budget or do I make a key investment? Do I rent or buy a home? Do I buy a used or new car? As leaders, we always will find ourselves in this mess. We must develop a process to enhance our probability of success. It’s not going away. You can’t engineer this out. You probably won’t have total control over outcomes. If you want to lead well, you have to get a handle on what it means to perform well in this tension.

8 Steps

Here’s 8 steps that will increase your probability of success as you wrestle with trade-offs:

  1. Clarify your Northstar. Go back to your core. Who do you want to be at the end of the day? What’s your purpose? What are your priorities for this season? These higher principles give critical context for your decision-making.
  2. Clarifying decision rights. Whose got the D? It’s important to know before wading too deeply into the decision-making process, who will ultimately own the decision. Are you responsible for a recommendation and input? This helps cut down on potential conflict in the long run.
  3. Load up on context. Get as much information on both sides of the issue. Assume you have a blind spot. When you load up on context, you want to try to eliminate that blind spot.
  4. Suspend your personal bias. Gaining context will help you remove your bias to the tradeoff calculus. It will set you up to make better decisions.
  5. Seek expert counsel (and REALLY listen). Don’t find people just to agree with you. You need someone to challenge you. This is wisdom.
  6. Develop multiple scenarios. Work on multiple plans (A, B, C) and it will help you be thoughtful as you assess outcomes. It’s a creative act of brainstorm that will help you make a better decision.
  7. Take unrecoverable scenarios off the board. Think about the outcome that you or the organization can’t live with. The risk/reward is too out of whack. It’s likely where most of your stress is originating.
  8. Project yourself into the future. How will this decision feel in the future vs how it feels in the moment? The best decision you make will be done with a long-term perspective in mind.