It’s a “first world problem”. Flight delays. When air travel works, I love travelling as a speaker and teacher. When there are delays… I start to reconsider how much it should be worth to leave my comfortable home city of Barcelona.
What to do when your flight is delayed?
Step 1: be grateful that I am travelling alone, and not with my kids.
Step 2: buy some food before the shops in the airport close and I am left starving.
Step 3: hope that the connection in Madrid waits for us.
Step 4: start writing…
Here’s one ugly looking departures screen at Barcelona airport this evening. There’s some storm hitting Portugal at the moment.
What I do when I am waiting? I write blog posts, I update my IESE technical notes, I add thoughts and ideas to my journal.
I’m sitting here for the next 2 hours… so hit me with your comments and let me know how you handle flight delays?
The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain. As it tires, your brain looks for shortcuts. The 2 most common decision avoidance tactics are:
to act impulsively (without seeing the consequences of the decision)
to procrastinate (do nothing)
Taking decisions takes willpower. Willpower is a form of mental energy that can be exhausted. It is like a muscle that gets fatigued with use.
There are a limited number of good decisions that one can take in a day. You might be a more effective decision maker than those around you, but you will still have a finite limit on the number of good decisions you can take in a day.
How do you Ration your decision making?
In the toughest days of my life as a CEO – dealing with the fallout from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the collapse in bank lending at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, I hit my limits of decision fatigue. In order to get through the weeks and have energy to deal with the things that would allow us as a business to get through these tough times, I rationed my decision making.
The first step was to specify when and where I would take decisions. (Initially… when: on a Friday; where: only in my office). Previously my team would approach me at any time in the day, over coffee, over lunch, via email, via sms to request budget for small projects or permission to do some new activity. I felt responsable as leader for providing an immediate answer. It was killing me and leaving me with no energy to dedicate to building our future once we survived the immediate crisis.
“That’s great, bring it on Friday…”
I decided that I would take all budget decisions on a Friday between 9-12. If someone came to me with a request, I learnt to say “that’s great, bring it on Friday and we can take a decision”. It was hard at first, people were frustrated and angry and didn’t like my lack of willingness to engage at the time and place that they wanted. Over the following months, the people around me learnt to plan ahead and bring the information necessary to take a good decision on the Friday before they needed the decision.
It gave me peace at lunchtimes, in the break area, even in my office when someone opened the door on a Tuesday. It was a challenge to remove my sense of responsibility to decide at all moments. I learnt to be able to have a conversation where I could contribute ideas, but allow it to be clear that no final decision would be taken during this discussion.
When One decision is not really One decision…
My wife realised that one of her struggles with going to the gym is that it was never just one single decision. Each trip to the gym was a series of decisions: do I change at home or at the gym? do I shower at the gym or at home? will I eat there or not? which t-shirt will I bring? which trainers will I use today? which bag will I use? As the idea of gym came up, her brain knew that it would be exhausted by the series of 20 decisions. Her solution? She wrote down all the questions that she used to ask herself and wrote the answers. She make going to the gym become one simple decision, with a written template of pre-decided answers (shower=yes, trainers=blue, eat=there…)
In Vistage one of the first processes of change that we see in a new CEO member, is a greater awareness of which decisions they should be taking and which decisions they should not be taking.
Are you taking €10,000 decisions, €100 decisions or €1 decisions?
If you are taking the €1 decisions, your brain’s decision willpower will be depleted before lunchtime.
If you are taking the €1 decisions, your €10,000 decisions will not be receiving the analysis and impact that they deserve.
Jack Welch spoke about the size of decisions that he allowed himself to be taking. GE is a multi-billion business. As leader Jack allowed himself to only be taking decisions that could affect at least $50M of the market capitalisation.
Steve Jobs is famous for having a wardrobe full of identical blue jeans and black t-shirts. It was not a fashion decision, it was a conservation of decision willpower for the important decisions of Apple. Barrack Obama speaks about a similar challenge as President of the USA. He set up a structure around him that ensured that he would take no more than 5 important leadership decisions in a day.
The Structure of Leadership Decision Making
The Vistage Decision Model captures 60 years of experience of working with CEOs as they take operational and strategic decisions to lead their companies and their lives. There are 3 levels of Decision “skill” – Instinct, Judgement and Perspectives. There are 5 areas of leadership decision: Talent, Operations, Financials, Customers and Leadership Style.
The secret to a good life? No, just a simple reflection on the nature of things. The important gestures you can make each day that really make an impact on others over the long time, are often so small that they are easily forgotten each day… but over 10 years the presence or the lack of a couple of small gestures makes a huge impact on your relationships and what you can have achieved in life.
An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away
This video comes from the beautiful location of Villa Ottoboni, on the outskirts of Padua in Italy. I had the privilege of teaching an interactive workshop on “The Psychology of Leadership” with the Ambrosetti organisation today.
I have been on and led many corporate and group retreats over the last 16 years around Barcelona. This blog post serves primarily as a reminder for myself of some of the great locations that I have used.
(I will be adding to this post over time, so bookmark it and come back regularly when you are looking for new ideas. If you have run an event near Barcelona in a location that I have not listed, I would love to hear about the location!).
Barcelona Corporate Retreat Locations
Here are some great locations for a Vistage Group, EO/YPO forum or corporate retreat near Barcelona.
Retreat Locations with Accommodations & Food Service
In Montseny Natural Park, 1 hour drive from Barcelona. All located in a country house, dating back to the tenth century. 11 bedrooms and meeting rooms.
If Life is hard, it is especially challenging for rugged individualists.
Rugged individualism, derived from “individualism”, is a term that indicates the virtuous ideal where an individual is totally self-reliant and independent from outside assistance.
I was a proud rugged individualist through school, into my first corporate job, and into my first 2 entrepreneurial ventures.
In 2006 I came across Entrepreneurs Organisation (or better, they came across me…) and I began to change. I learnt that you can make much wiser decisions when you allow others to guide you with their experiences and their questions.
I have had many mentors in these last 12 years. I have been asked to be the mentor to others. I feel underprepared to be a mentor. David Cohen, founder of TechStars, wrote about the lessons he has learnt over 11 years of day to day experience in identifying great mentors for the entrepreneurs that form part of TechStars.
There are many ways, many frameworks, many tips. Here I share one simple, easy to implement change that you can begin to use today.
Sometimes the best way to allow your team mates to ask for help is for you to ask for help first (and especially when you don’t necessarily believe that you need help). Allow others to have an impact on you, they will then open to allow you to have an impact on them.
This video is about learning the humility as a leader to ask for help, not when you need it, but at times where you don’t feel you need it – at times where you are not struggling, at the times where you would tend to just get on with it and solve it yourself.
This video is inspired by George RR Martin and his view on leadership and the price of power. Kouzes and Posner in The Leadership Challenge show that being a good person gets the greatest effort out of the people around you, but just being a nice person can mean you avoid the really tough decisions of Leadership.
What’s the toughest leadership decision of all time? Answer below the video…
Tough Leadership Decisions?
The toughest decision of Leadership: Odysseus’ choice between Scylla and Charybdis.
This list is Conor’s “Sunday afternoon in a coffee shop brain dump” of reasons why Business Leaders seek the support of an Executive Coach or Mentor either independently or through an organisation like Vistage.