Decision-Making Obama’s Way

Have a big meeting? Do you wear the blue suit or the grey suit?Effective Decision-making skills of President Obama What about the black one? Ding! Don’t have one….too many choices. Keep it simple.

Don’t want to clutter your brain with too many small decisions because you need all your Mojo for those big decisions… like whether to take out Osama Bin Laden even though you’re not sure he’s where you think he is AND you could fail or when you don’t like the options presented to you by your team or allies regarding turmoil in a country called Libya.

This is what President Barack Obama told Michael Lewis in a fascinating Vanity Fair article called, Michael Lewis: Obama’s Way. Michael Lewis is the author of “Moneyball”,  “Liar’s Poker”, “The New Thing” and “The Big Short”.

Regardless of who you support for President, it is fascinating to learn how the President makes decisions in some of the most intense situations. We can learn from this.

Three great decision-making tips:

1. Stay Confident. Think about this quote when you’re faced with a restructuring, product launch or a decision that you’re not completely sure is the right one:

“So you wind up dealing with probabilities. Any given decision you make you’ll wind up with (there’s) a 30 to 40 percent chance that it isn’t going to work. You have to own that and feel comfortable with the way you made the decision. You can’t be paralyzed by the fact that it might not work out.” On top of all of this, after you have made your decision, you need to feign total certainty about it. People being led do not want to think probabilistically.” President Barack Obama

Think start-up or innovation. Or, any risky decision you have to make. You need to rally the troops. You weigh the odds and then move on. Andy Grove said the exact same thing when interviewed about making a business decision he wasn’t sure of. His view was to decipher the data or metrics and then decide. He wouldn’t call it “fake it ‘til you make it” but ..close.

2. Get Diverse Opinions. One way the President does that is to hear a different point of view and actually make himself wear or own that position.

“Obama structures meetings so that they’re not debates,” says one participant. “They’re mini-speeches. He likes to make decisions by having his mind occupying the various positions. He likes to imagine holding the view.” Says another person at the meeting, “He seems very much to want to hear from people. Even when he’s made up his mind he wants to cherry-pick the best arguments to justify what he wants to do.”

3. Ask the right questions. It’s easy to get into a two-choice mode, especially when you’re under pressure. Is it a or b? But, the President said when he didn’t like the repercussions of a “binary” decision, he would ask more and different people to find the unpredictable opinion. When that happened, he could rephrase the question so that other options surfaced.  Something else to consider when you’re faced with the tough decisions.

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