I made a big decision last week. In actual fact that decision wasn’t made last week, merely announced. It had been in the works for the better part of a year. A lot of thought and work went into it, with the typical “should I or shouldn’t I” debates going back and forth in my head. But when the email went out to all our people at work it became very real. I am retiring.
We’ll sort of anyway! I’m calling it my “first retirement” as I’m resigning my position in order to focus on building my coaching practice. That’s my passion and purpose that will energize me in the next chapter of my life.
Nonetheless I was wondering how I would feel about seeing the email come out. What emotions would be going through me? How would I feel walking around the office? What would I say to other people? Would life be different for me? The answers to those questions reflect the magnitude of the decision … it’s a “BDD” (big damn deal) as some of my friends say. I mostly feel relaxed and at ease about it, but also sense the impact of what’s coming. Life will be different for me, for my wife, for our family. It will impact who I see on a day-to-day basis, and I’m sure that goes as far as who will choose to interact with me. I’m glad I took my time and prepared for this decision.
I’ve sat with this for the last week and contemplated how I arrived at this pivotal decision. Reflecting on it, it is clear to me that I progressively told more and more people about the decision I was contemplating. It was in these smaller decisions that brought the full scope of the overall challenge into the light which I believe made this process work for me. There were four key people, or groups of people to tell about it, and the order was important. It seems to me that this progression might be valuable for many important personal decisions.
- Tell myself – this sounds obvious or a maybe a bit on the silly side, but I actually think that this was a very important step. By telling myself, a number of things came to the fore. First, I put a name on what I was going to do. I didn’t say I was going to retire, I said I would enter into my “first retirement”, meaning I was going to change the way that I engaged with my career. That set an image in my mind that I could then emotionally respond to, seeing if that was indeed what I really wanted. Most importantly, I think by telling myself, my inner board of directors started talking to me, telling me all of the reasons this wasn’t a good idea. Obstacles that I needed to move past in order to make this decision successful.
- Tell my inner circle – while my internal board of directors were telling me what was wrong with what I was telling them I was going to do, my inner circle … my external directors if you will … were available to support me in moving past these obstacles. Each of us will define our inner circle differently, but it is likely that they will have the following attributes:o We trust them implicitly
o They are non-judgmental
o They want the best for usMy inner circle consisted of my wife, my coach, several close friends and a financial advisor. As I identified. As an obstacle became clear to me I would work to understand both the fact and the emotion associated with it, and then bring the right members of my circle to bear on it until I began to be comfortable with how I might remove it.
- Tell someone else – once I was comfortable that each of the obstacles was manageable, it was time for me to start to float this decision “out there”. Whereas my confidence discussing it within my inner circle was very high, moving it into the wider world seemed like a risk. Looking back at this there were probably two main benefits to doing this. First was a confirmation that I really was comfortable with moving forward, and the second was that I now was bringing a new perspective – a broader and more objective view than my internal circle – into the evaluation process so that I could assess how my greater environment might accept this decision. I would begin to identify any external obstacles that I might have to deal with. Second, I could then begin to enlist support for the decision, helping to solidify probability of success. It was important that the person I chose had some interest in and power related to the decision I was making. That made sure that I got feedback about my decision, opportunity to adjust it as necessary and began to build acceptance of it.
- Tell everyone – I knew that when I did this, it would feel like there was no turning back. That may not have actually been true, but the real value of telling everyone was an affirmation for myself that I was ready to make the decision and move on. I drew on all of my inner resources and said this decision is right for me and it is time for everyone else to know it. I let go of my current state and moved into my future state. I was ready for some post-decision remorse. While it didn’t arrive for me, I knew that if it did there might be some information within that remorse of something I missed along the way and needed further attention.
We value decisiveness in leaders, and leaders often feel the weight of making decisions. What is important for us to know as leaders is that there is some structure to rely on making them, and we don’t have to be alone in how we arrive at them. What do you know about how you make big decisions? What other conversations do you have when making them?