March 4, 2020
Let’s talk decisions – specifically all of those opportunities that come our way as junior faculty (and beyond). I am sure you heard the same 2 pieces of advice that I did:
Alright – I offer that #1 is problematic because it’s a) way too simple, b) doesn’t take into account when it’s your mentor who is asking (Hello?!), and c) shuts down the skill we actually need to develop – how to make high quality decisions in our careers. Soo…no.
Moving on to #2 is the focus for this newsletter. It sounds great, but like many old adages in academics…there’s a gaping hole in the HOW of it all. I latched on to this ‘don’t say yes right away’ advice as soon as I heard it and was ducking opportunities and decisions left and right with the “I’ll get back to you soon.”
And then…what? Delaying the decision, without a process to make the decision, does not actually lead to a better decision. Without a process, we fall into a couple of common scenarios:
Neither of those are CEO type behavior.
Here’s a third way, a *great* way, to make high-quality decisions in your career.
First,know and recognize the common emotions that are often communicated alongside of (or instead of…) the facts of the opportunity. (In academic medicine we are terrible at this and our institutional cultures reinforce the blurring of these lines.)
Common emotions and how they sound:
Second, you need to identify the facts. Use the emotions above as a cue to pause – because you have work to do. It’s very likely that urgency, obligation, and/or gratitude are obscuring the FACTS you need to make your decision.
FACTS and what they are:
The frequency with which we will perseverate over a decision (big or small) *without* this information is too common. You cannot make a high-quality decision without the FACTS. Period.
Third, take the facts and make them stand up against your personal career goals. I coach my clients to always bring it back to the 4 foundations: How does this align with your unique academic value? What is the impact of this choice on your micro-environment? How does this enhance or detract from your grant getting strategy? What are the implications for your 1 and 3 year plans? Now *this* is the time when you crowdsource – for information! Go talk to folks who’ve said yes and who’ve said No. Find out details about structure and schedule from administrative staff. Summon your inner Inspector Gadget. Do your research, stay curious, and stay in charge.
A high-quality decision is an informed one. Informed not by blinding urgency, obligation and/or gratitude, but by facts and a personal clarity on where you are going with your career.
A high-quality decision can be a Yes or a No – and the most qualified person to make the call is YOU. No more abdicating. No more crowdsourcing. No more avoiding.
I hope the first 2 months of 2020 treated you well. I hope whatever was supposed to stay behind in 2019 is long gone. I hope your Worker Bees, Scientists, and CEOs are figuring each other out and building momentum to your year.
No more playing small.