Two men—one old, one young, both reading newspapers—were sharing a park bench on a lovely afternoon. The younger man asked his seatmate 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 give 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 are 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 decision they make today and how it 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, and 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 aside 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 all different angles.
Plan far ahead. Spend some time really contemplating your decision, thinking as far into the future as you can reach.
We all make decisions, but in the end our decisions will make us.
Lead from Within: It does not take much strength to do things, but it requires a great deal of strength to decide what to do and why.
[box]Lolly Daskal is the president and Founder of Lead From Within a consulting firm specializing in executive leadership coaching and customized leadership programs. Connect with Lolly Daskal[/box]
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Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.