Making Hiring Decisions Should Not Be This Hard, Part 2
This is the second and final part of a two-part series. Part one ran last week.
It Gets Worse as We Age
According to Gregory Samanez-Larkin, co-director of the Scientific Research Network on Decision Neuroscience and Aging, the way we make decisions changes on a fundamental, physiological level as we age. The brain begins to approach tasks differently, and only when we understand these changes can we learn to work with them and “retrain” ourselves to reason and react differently. Furthermore, this research clearly points out that “older adults” are more likely to deviate from standard decision-making patterns when confronted with difficult choices. Older adults are simply more comfortable with an abundance of relevant and thorough information, and less comfortable with risk. Compare that to a millennial who operates in exactly the opposite manner and the stage is set for functional or organizational conflict.
Leaders have to be affected by this physiological reality to some degree; however, this shouldn't be an excuse and self-aware leaders must keep the importance of being decisive always top of mind. It's about keeping up and being curious, thoughtful, quick yet careful. How do you assimilate new information while accessing a heightened ability to remain decisive?
What to Do About This?
“Making perfect decisions is overrated.” It's more important to make a “good” decision quickly than to find a flawless solution that puts everything at a standstill. Seeking the flawless will only delay reality; making a mistake is the norm and it's the prep work that factors in contingency plans that makes the difference. Of course, different issues require different depths of thinking. Deciding what to have for lunch should be easier than choosing the best hire from a slate of candidates. The reality, however, is it's unlikely anyone ever gets enough meaningful data to make the perfect decision, if such a decision can be made at all. Good data doesn't guarantee a flawless decision. However, processing data is one of the tools that enhance the decision-making process. Some decisions rely on data more than others but “it's important to understand that any (reasonable) decision is better than no decision.”
Tim Flannery, a venture partner at Pilot Mountain Ventures, and author on this topic for Fortune, says that leaders he respects and trusts offer two important points when making tough decisions: one, trust your gut and, two, rely on past experiences. Research shows that first reactions are more often correct than not. Mulling over a decision is actually a way of trying to convince oneself the initial decision is wrong. Trusting one’s instinct is difficult but crucial, especially in a changing work world. One needs to trust one’s instinct and one’s “pattern (of) recognition.”
Appropriately relying on past experiences is critical. “Does this decision feel familiar? What did you do last time? Did it work? How did you course correct? This process is called ‘pattern recognition,’ and it should factor heavily into your thought process.” Using real experiences from past situations helps one trust one’s gut, hence tying the two guides into ensuring effective decision making.
“Instead of focusing all of your time on making the perfect choice, trust your gut, then execute. Just follow the advice of General George Patton: ‘a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.’”
It's no surprise that effective leaders automatically utilize available information, past experiences and their gut instinct to get to a decision. The longer the decision-making process goes on, the greater the chance of overthinking and allowing too much information to cloud one’s initial — and often best — judgment. The best leaders and decision makers innately understand this. And, by the way, it's not the end of the world to make a mistake. The best leaders learn and move on from mistakes. There's no perfect decision, but there is the ability to make a decision and be prepared for what follows. It's as much about speed as flexibility is learned over time and experience. Millennials may have their own perspective, but experienced leaders have not only perspective but an innate sense of the “what ifs …” that may follow. It's really all about balance, perspective, planning and clarity of vision.
Related story: New Hiring Paradigm Sets Expectations for Immediate Results