From closing a multi-million-dollar deal to mundane tasks like shopping for groceries at the local supermarket, choices sit at the center of our everyday lives. The average person makes an estimated 35,000 decisions per day. How can we ensure these decisions are well-thought through and effective?
As business leaders, the constant pressure to consistently perform at optimal levels can lure us into the “hero game.” This is where we swoop in with the hard and tough decisions to save the day. The mental fatigue that builds from this in the long term gives way for a downward spiral of low productivity. Over time, you’ve reached the end of your rope … and this approach proves unsustainable.
In many instances, a vacation or a long drive may seem a viable option to gain some clarity. The issue with this, however, is that it’s only a quick-fix solution that only takes some of the edge off. What you are really wanting is to get back to work with a solution that at least gets to the heart of your problem. But what if there is a better alternative? The EOS(R) Clarity Break is!
EOS(R) Clarity Break
EOS defines a Clarity Break as “a regularly scheduled appointment on your calendar with yourself”. It’s that alone time where you unplug from all the chaos and be in the present with yourself. A Clarity Break offers you the option to get out of your head and have a step back to objectively assess and reflect on your direction and approach. In his book, Principles, Ray Dalio captures this beautifully: “Failing to consider second- and third-order consequences is the cause of a lot of painfully bad decisions, and it is especially deadly when the first inferior option confirms your own biases. Never seize on the first available option, no matter how good it seems, before you’ve asked questions and explored.”
Thinking Breaks Study
A study led by a psychology professor at the University of Illinois, Alejandro Lleras, suggests that regularly scheduling breaks from work energizes the brain thereby resulting in better problem-solving skills. Taking Clarity Breaks has been proven to help forge the pathway for taking better decisions.
This very process of setting aside time with yourself where you objectively review and challenge your decisions, enables you to identify the nuances in context that you failed to notice in your decision-making. The Queen’s Gambit, a Netflix show, is about a young girl’s process to becoming a Grandmaster at chess. Reviewing her games and the games of her competitors is crucial in her future success.
When you commit to this exercise, you begin to feel the fog lift from your mind and your decision-making skills become sharper. Cultivating the openness to ask yourself hard-hitting questions and acknowledging the resulting truths is a difficult but freeing exercise. This exposes your preconceived biases and guides you to coming out on the other side better. Only after recognizing a problem exists can you then begin to fix it.
What to do in a Clarity Break
A Clarity Break could take the form of writing down what prompted you to make a particular decision and whether or not you’d make the same decision a day or week later given the same circumstances. It shines light on your strengths and limitations and provides the space for leveraging your strengths and compensating for your limitations.
This exercise in self-awareness makes you understand yourself better to give some time between your thoughts and decisions where applicable. Gaining this clarity around what informs our decisions, emotions, and behaviors is a process that equips us with the needed compassion and empathy to be sensitive to the needs and limitations of the people we lead. This translates into improved overall performance at the workplace. According to a Korn/Ferry International study of 486 publicly-traded companies, “leaders with higher self-awareness not only have greater job satisfaction and commitment to their employer personally, but that effect also appears to trickle down to a manager’s direct reports.”
Clarity Breaks and Leadership
For leaders, not taking this break for clarity in decision-making is ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. The trickle-down effect on your team can be devastating. Between words and behaviors, people tend to respond to behaviors. We judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intent.
Effective leaders recognize that transformation begins with them and their teams mirror how they show up in moments of uncertainty. Taking Clarity Breaks and thinking through our past, present, and future decisions, reinforces desired behaviors that make ourselves and our organizations stronger and sustainable. We also lead by example and send signals down to our team of what it takes to be a good, quick decision maker in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world!
In the middle of all the pressure that comes with leadership, I hope you find the time to hit the pause button and take care of yourself like you’ve so often done for others. When you find yourself headed down the path of overwhelm, unplug for a Clarity Break. It gives you the time to think, which makes you a more focused human … making decisions like a CEO.