About a decade ago, when I served on a local ASTD chapters board, I
began to ponder the stalemate that can occur when trying to reach a
decision through consensus. During one particularly drawn-out
meeting, I found myself listening to human resource colleagues
circling in conversation without deciding anything. Sitting there,
I reflected on the fact that individuals within a group can hold
different mindsets about the decision at hand. During that meeting,
I created what I call ChoiceMarks for the best-possible decision
makingmindsets for thinking about decisions.
As you read through the mindsets, think about which one is most
comfortable for you. Which mindset is most often used by the people
you work with and live with? Typically people rely on one or two
mindsets the majority of the time.
Extreme excitement. This is the ChoiceMark highest
in energy for a say-yes or do-it decision regarding an action to be
taken or a project to be pursued. The only decision acceptable for
the extreme excitement mindset is yes. Few, if any, questions are
posed when a person holds this mindset. Positive energy can be
contagious while at the same time annoying. The extreme excitement
energy is critical for long-haul projects that need championing
through to completion.
Engaged enthusiasm. Those with this mindset are
inclined to a yes, do-it response. This mark is noticeably
different than the first because of the number of questions asked
by the person or people holding this mindset to pin down specifics,
details, deadlines, resources, and staffing commitments. If the
questions are not answered sufficiently, someone in engaged
enthusiasm may move into neutral and neither help with the
implementation of a decision nor stand in its way.
Neutral. Willing to listen, often full of
questions, the person with this mindset may or may not speak up. So
when a group is particularly quiet, start asking questions to find
out whether people are in neutral and to uncover what questions
they have and want answered before they will commit to a decision.
Boxed-in. Known widely for its limited,
done-it-before-and-it-didnt-work thinking, this mindset also has
strengths. For instance, failing to draw on past experiences may
create less than optimal if not disastrous outcomes. A boxed-in
thinker may in fact be aware of obstacles that the engaged and
extreme excitement thinkers have not considered. So, ask for the
concerns and insight of people who appear to be boxed-in in their
Anti-survival. Vocal about not taking the action
under discussion, this mindset is equal in energy to the extreme
excitement mark. People with this mindset are often seen by others
as being pessimistic, always against things, or the consummate
devils advocate. However, the strength of the anti-survival mindset
is that the person may in fact be right: If the action is taken
someone or something may get hurt.
Getting all five of the mindsets talking, and then listening
intently to the points of view expressed, helps every group make
the best possible decisions. Without uncovering the experiences
behind the spoken and unspoken points of view, teams can find
themselves failing to meet their goals; groups can fall short of
accomplishments because of intentional sabotage; and individuals
can end up disengaging from the group effort just when you need
Note: This article originally appeared in the
February 2009 issue of ASTD Links.