The Most Important Decision You May Never Make


Distance learning is no joke. I’m not sure about you, but there are days I crawl across the finish line (a.k.a. final Zoom meeting) mentally drained. I’m not sure what it is, but I have to believe there’s more at play than me simply experiencing “Zoom fatigue.”

Here's what I'm thinking...

Many of us are trying to take familiar pathways to new solutions. (This is difficult to do.) Others are trying to forge new pathways to familiar solutions. (This is not easy either.)

Regardless of which part of your work is new and unknown, chances are good you’re also being impacted by additional stressors. These include increased urgency, more emotional connections to the decisions we’re making, and higher stakes. It’s not that we didn’t make decisions along these lines in the past…it just seems like there are more complexities.

When things are complex I often try to think about them in the simplest terms. Distilling processes down to simple representations helps me approach more decisions strategically (which ultimately helps me drill down deeper).

I’d love to hear your insights and deeper thinking on all of this. (I’m not in love with the terms I selected below, but they seem to be an okay starting point.)

4 Types of Solutions (because I think that's what we're seeking...right?!)

1. Slightly Less Urgent and Obvious: Let’s be honest…the decisions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have felt like they either needed to be made now or ten minutes ago. But in sticking with the theme of honesty, there are always some decisions that are slightly less urgent than others. If the solution you or your team needs is slightly less urgent, it’s important to recognize this right away. And if the answer or approach is obvious…it’s probably a relatively safe bet (until it isn’t). Of course, if we wait long enough, solutions in this quadrant will become urgent and painfully obvious.

2. Urgent and Obvious: Solutions that are urgent and obvious are the ones leaders tend to start with (for obvious reasons). They are pressing and the path forward seems somewhat clear. However, there is a downside to always doing what’s urgent and obvious first. Sometimes better solutions are not urgent or obvious. This brings us to the next quadrant...and the most important decision you may never make.

3. Unknown and Urgent: When a situation is ripe for change and the conditions tell us a decision is urgent, it is very, very difficult to wade in unknown waters longer than necessary. This is exactly why so many of us settle for urgent and obvious solutions. However, if we can force ourselves to spend time in quadrants 3-4 when our instincts, training, and experience tell us otherwise we might be able to make a bigger difference than we could when we simply pursue obvious solutions (or rely on more familiar pathways).

4. Unknown and Slightly Less Urgent: This quadrant includes things that are largely unknown and less urgent. The ordinarily hustle and bustle of life make it unlikely that many leaders would choose to live here…let alone make it a daily discipline to wade in this type of thinking during a global pandemic where the rules are constantly changing. However, spending time in this quadrant each and every day could help you and your team achieve unfathomable results together. (I'm thinking this quadrant is comprised of the type of thinking that made Netflix and Uber possible....while everyone else was trying to improve Blockbuster or hail a taxi...)

It’s natural to seek solutions that are obvious when you're tapped for time. However, the most important decision you may never make could be waiting for you right now in unknown and slightly less obvious territory. The only question is, will you be there?

I'm still processing all of this and would love your feedback, pushback, and questions. Thanks for helping me learn.

Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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