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How Will This Decision Make Me Look
It’s not a revelation that leaders consider how decisions and actions will make them look before making them. The perceived optics of how our actions and decisions will reflect upon us weigh heavily in our decision calculus.
Leaders want to look good to those that matter most to them. In most situations, however, one person or audience in particular exerts the most undue influence. Leaders commonly ask themselves, “How will this decision make me look in the eyes of X?”
When it comes to decision biases, those who study decision-making largely underestimate the influence those leaders play to. By overweighing the optics of a decision, leaders can fall into the trap of making an inferior decision largely because others will find it more acceptable.
The decisions others want us to make are rarely the best choice. When important referents would frown upon a decision highly regarded by the team, you can bet it is likely the right call.
Understanding this bias is essential work for those who want to improve their decision-making. Calling out, in our own minds, whose reaction we are most concerned with helps to diminish the impact they have on our choices. By recognizing that we are subtly influenced by those we hold in high regard concerning the decision, and by committing to a more objective view, we can draw higher quality conclusions.
In the end, the optics should always matter less than the best answer to the problem we confront. In fact, any time a normally competent decision-maker makes a call way out of the strike zone, it is safe to presume they may have been thinking about how things would look rather than about the best choice to make.
Disregarding how others will view the decision requires tremendous discipline. But those who push through this nasty bias will be rewarded with better decisions and an enhanced ability to defend them.
Making quality decisions often means NOT listening to the voice of a certain someone sitting on your shoulder. That’s not your conscience speaking. That’s bias telling you to listen to what others might think. Ignore them. Your ability to consistently make great decisions depends upon it.