I’ve recently had new opportunities present itself on multiple fronts in my life both personally and professionally. Those opportunities couldn’t be different from one another in their context, but upon reflection I think my potential success in both cases is very similar.
The key to my success will be a willingness to take chances when the opportunities exist. If I spend too much time thinking and weighing options or and don’t commit myself to my first step toward the goal then I will likely doom myself to either failure or minimal success.
Many people get caught up in the stress of stepping into the unknown and then go into analysis paralysis mode, weighing their options and trying to predict outcomes. The reality though is that in most cases you can’t predict the outcomes with any level of accuracy so all of that analysis results in wasted time and potentially that the opportunity that has moved on. Certainly we should consider the nature of an opportunity before jumping in with both feet, but I would propose an alignment based analysis rather than a detailed predictive outcome analysis.
What’s alignment based analysis?
Everyone is familiar with traditional decision frameworks, pro-con lists, weighted option analysis, etc. For some decisions this is absolutely appropriate, but when the outcomes of the options in front of you are even slightly muddy I believe these “quantifiable” frameworks actually provide a false confidence and simply waste time.
In an alignment based analysis you instead focus on the potential of the opportunity and weigh its alignment to your personal or professional needs. Instead of trying to predict an outcome, you simply consider the most positive/successful outcome and determine whether that outcome would be desirable to you. Why consider negative outcomes if your intent if you take the opportunity is to be successful?
As an example – when an opportunity to take on a new responsibility at work comes up you may have a limited window of opportunity to step of and say yes. Doing a detailed analysis may take longer than the window of opportunity, and likely won’t give you the information you need to make sense of it since the outcomes are unclear.
Instead, you look at the new challenge and consider the question – “If I am successful in taking on this new responsibility what is the most positive potential outcome to me and my organization, and does that align to my needs and desires in my career and life?” You will find quickly that you will have a gut feel that will guide your answer – if there is alignment, dive in.
I made a decision, now what?
Once you’ve done your rapid alignment analysis and decided to take the opportunity, don’t hesitate to take action. Being tentative in your first steps doesn’t enable success, it ensures mediocrity. You based your decision on a successful outcome so why be tentative in your approach to execution.
The first thing you need to do is articulate the alignment – the “why” that explains why you took the opportunity in the first place. Understanding and articulating the “why” story will help you build confidence and clarity within yourself, and help you build alignment to the new responsibilities and the change within your team. Without the why, you can’t be successful in building real commitment to the new goals with those people around you who need to support those goals.
With story in hand and clarity of the desired outcome, jump in and execute. Build your execution plan, rally your team or support system, and communicate every success along the road. Being a leader in terms of taking on new challenges means leading with confidence and clarity of story.
New opportunities arise almost daily and leveraging a rapid alignment based analysis rather than a detailed decision framework allows you to react more quickly to commit to the opportunities that make the most sense for you. Don’t muddle your decisions with outcome predictions which are unclear, instead make authentic and aligned decisions that are consistent with your own needs and desires. Alignment based decisions result in more successful outcomes and greater happiness and satisfaction for yourself.
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.