Decision Making

Making The Right Leadership Decisions

leadership foundation

Dr. Lee Newman, Dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences and professor at IE University and IE Business School, recently shared findings in behavioral sciences that can impact career advancement with Ivy Exec members. Following  is an excerpt of Dr. Newman’s recent webinar on this topic. (You can access the complete audio record of this presentation on Ivy Exec’s Blog: Here)

We are all facing immense pressure in the workplace and are being asked to do more with even less in the face of intense competition for job success and promotions. The rapid pace of change and intense dynamics are the norm in the modern workplace.

Often, when we are under pressure, we must make quick leadership decisions. Decision making is one of the most important skills for managers and leaders, and can make (or break) a career. Ingrained, “default” behaviors can lead to intuitive business decisions that are inherently flawed. Dr. Newman highlights that that we can make better leadership decisions under these difficult conditions if we open ourselves to new thinking and behaviors. But…we will need to “rewire” and “rescript” the way we think and behave – essentially training/retraining our “Mindware”.

What is Mindware?

We all are familiar with the idea of software and hardware.   Few of us are innately aware of our own “Mindware”, the fundamental components that drive our thinking and behavior.  The following are among the most important components of Mindware:

  1. Attention that determines where we focus our mental resources;
  2. Short term memory that allows us to think in real time;
  3. Long term memory, where we store our knowledge and experience;
  4. Will power and control that allow us to choose one behavior over another;
  5. A “habit factory” that automates things we do all the time, making our life simpler and less effortful;
  6. The emotional system that generates bodily responses as we react to the world;
  7. A “social radar” that tracks the presence or potential influence of other people …

Our Mindware has been engineered over time through evolution. In the beginning, in “World 0.0”, our mission was to survive and reproduce.  The aspects of our Mindware that helped us do this were ultimately selected. Our Mindware was wired to force us to resort to reflexive (default) behaviors to make our lives easier and help us meet the challenges of World 0.0 .  The problem is that the modern business workplace looks nothing like World 0.0, yet we are stuck with the  same  fundamentally limited Mindware  and default behaviors.  We have limited control over these default behaviors, for example – rapidly judging people, having competitive reactions to threats in meetings, acting based on runaway emotions. Habits are very strong and hard to overwrite. Behavioral science is showing that these default behaviors can be extremely biased and can lead to poor judgments and  counterproductive behaviors, and we are often not even aware at that these behaviors are occurring.

Training/Retraining “Mindware”

If we can learn to tweak our default behaviors in the workplace slightly, we can make high impact changes in the way we think and make decisions. And if we can turn these tweaks into habits, this can have a large and positive impact on our job performance.

Additionally, if we can reduce biases in the way we judge people, analyze information and the way we think, we can make more effective decisions –not the big decisions (because those usually have time and resources behind them ), but the small decisions we face every day at work that have a subtle yet cumulative effect on our overall job performance.  And, when you add up these small decisions over time, they drive the quality of the big decisions in the end. If we can get the small decisions right, we will become more effective leaders and managers.

So how do we do this?…

Part 2 of this Blog will address the obstacles we face in Training/Retraining “Mindware” and practical strategies for overcoming those obstacles…


About the Author

Dr. Newman’s work centers on translating and applying psychology to help people optimize their performance in the workplace.