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What do you find in the “gray areas” of decision making?


These two make decisions, colorful. Photo used w/permission –

Would everything be so much simpler if there were no grey or no alternative opinions/options — only right/wrong, true/false? I would argue – no.

A while ago my husband and I went to the George Bernard Shaw festival in Niagara on the Lake, Canada. One of the plays had three acts. In Act One the characters had several options to choose from. In Act Two you saw the ramifications of their as yet unmade choices. In Act Three you saw the choices and decisions being made. You knew what the outcomes were going to be. I had to physically restrain my husband from marching onto stage to tell them not to choose X or Y.

If we had a crystal ball to see the future, we could always be assured to make the right decisions at the right time. But, we can’t see the future even though my husband claims to have a friend named Doc Brown who owns a DeLorean. Even Shakespeare wrote a play about it. (Macbeth).

Working with only the knowledge of the present, there are usually alternate right “hows” (or paths) to get to a goal. There are also different goals rooted in different opinions driven by different assumptions.

The more the uncertainty, the more there is room for grey. Let me offer a few suggestions on how to keep your head in the game when things are not so black and white:

1. Focus on the objectives.
You may not be able to overcome the grey or other people’s decisions that may impede you – but you can and must go back to the basic objectives needed to achieve excellence. In a way, you can reset your future timeline. Use that as your foundation to move forward.

2. Take the higher ground.
Grey areas can drive frustration within teams. Be professional by focusing on the actions not the people. Don’t let others drive your attitude. You own your own attitude.

3. Look for the next right decision.
Trying to do the next right thing is good, yet sometimes it doesn’t deliver what you wanted. But as those great philosophers the Rolling Stones once said, “You can’t always get what you want but if you try sometime you find
you get what you need.” If what you tried didn’t work, try something else. It is all about moving forward. One step at a time.

4. Conspiracy theories don’t help.
Making up “why something is the way it is” doesn’t help people to focus on finding a way to make things work better. When I don’t understand something, I trust my senior leadership. Knowing they aren’t perfect they are privy to more information than I have. Theirs is a bigger picture, making it harder for me to judge their actions. I don’t know what they know.

5. Remember your manners.
Civility is not optional. We learned this in pre-school… Please. Thank you. Excuse me. These phrases never go out of style. Treat others as you want to be treated. Clean up after yourself. Load paper in the copier just because. Smile more. When it’s stressful out there, a little civility allows everyone to keep their head about them.

Be intentional