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Lolly Daskal


Consequential Thinking

How to make better decisions for the best results

Published: Monday, October 31, 2016 - 11:11

Two men—one old, one young, both reading newspapers—were sharing a park bench on a lovely afternoon. The younger man asked his seatmate for the time, but the old man said, “No,” and went back to reading his newspaper. The young man asked, “I’m sorry, have I offended you in some way?”

The old man said pleasantly, “No, not at all.”

After a confused moment, the younger man asked, “So why won’t you tell me the time?”

The old man put down his newspaper. He looked at the young man and said, “When you first sat down here, I could see you’re a nice-looking, well-groomed young man. You were reading a paper, so I could see you’re intelligent and engaged.

“When you asked me the time, I could see it leading to a conversation, after which we’d become friends. And I’d invite you to dinner with my family, where you’d meet my beautiful, intelligent daughter, and you’d certainly hit it off with her and begin dating, then fall in love with her and propose. And there’s no way I’m letting my precious daughter marry the kind of man who doesn’t wear a watch.”

It’s a funny story, but the message is a serious one: The best leaders don’t just make plans; they think about the decisions they make today and how they will affect them in the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Here’s how to orient your thinking toward the future:

Anticipate consequences. Remember, when you choose an action, you choose the consequences of that action.

Consider options carefully. Each alternative comes with its own set of certainties and uncertainties, as well as a varying degree of risk. By adopting a structured approach to assessing challenges and evaluating the probability of adverse events occurring, you can save yourself a lot of unwanted mistakes.

Think in terms of cause and effect. The more you can work through the most likely chain of events, the better you can project likely outcomes.

Investigate and eliminate. Investigate the circumstances to make sure your understanding of the situation is as complete as possible, then focus your attention by eliminating anything that is a distraction or a side issue and not within the scope of the decision.

Generate good alternatives. Generating a number of different options may seem overly complicated, but the act of coming up with alternatives forces you to dig deeper and look at the problem from different angles.

Plan far ahead. Spend some time really contemplating your decision, thinking as far into the future as you can reach.

Lead from within. It doesn’t take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do and why.

We all make decisions, but in the end our decisions will make us.

First published on Lolly Daskal’s Lead from Within blog.


About The Author

Lolly Daskal’s picture

Lolly Daskal

Lolly Daskal is one of the world’s most sought-after executive leadership coaches, with cross-cultural expertise spanning 14 countries, six languages, and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world. Based on a mix of modern philosophy, science, and nearly 30 years coaching executives, Daskal’s perspective on leadership continues to break new ground. Her proprietary insights are the subject of her book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness (Penguin Portfolio, 2017).