Friday, May 10, 2013

Snap Decisions and Gender Relations: It's either now or too late

A male colleague and I had to make a snap decision yesterday. We had a deadline to meet in 20 minutes, but we came across a problem that needed to be resolved before a decision could be made.Unfortunately, the solution required the assistance of third parties and would have extended beyond the 20 minutes we had. My colleague asked me to execute a decision he was willing to take full responsibility for. He even put it in writing, but I hesitated. Not because I don't trust the man, but because our thinking processes were apparently starkly different.

I wanted to consider all options, get the supervisor's input and then make a decision. My colleague instead looked at the choices and made what I believed to be a hasty decision. I initially started honoring his request, but felt pretty uncomfortable. In the end, I went with my original plan and discussed the situation with the supervisor.

Turns out my colleague was right. His decision was the only viable solution under the circumstances and he made that determination in a shorter time span than I did. It had me thinking after the entire ordeal was over whether our decision making process was gender related. For the most part, women are more deliberate and methodical. We're more comfortable thinking things through and then making a decision. I understand this may be crossing the boundary into stereotyping, but it is usually the case.

Turns out the gender thing did not apply here. I was raised by a mother who honored caution. Quick decisions made her uncomfortable, and she criticized me when I pushed her to make one. So I
learned to take my time. Not that I'm complaining, because this process has worked for me so far. But yesterday's experience taught me that's not always the case. Had I waited longer to make a decision, it would have created a problem. My colleague instinctively knew that. He knew he was taking a risk and he was okay with that, but he was responsible enough to hold himself accountable for any unintended consequences. He was able to take the initiative, look at the facts before him, and make a decision without any outside approval.

Here's what I learned from this experience:

  • Believe in your abilities. Have confidence in the experience and knowledge you have.
  • Don't overanalyze. Look at the facts before you and make that decision based on those facts.
  • Limit the alternatives to the issue at hand. Forget the 'what-if's' and 'maybe's'.
  • Have a rational argument prepared to defend your decision. My colleague listed off his reasoning before the decision was ever implemented based on the facts and the situation, not what he thought would happen in the future.
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  • Understand that there are times when you should take your time and times when you need to decide at a moment's notice - and know the difference. And when in doubt, always trust your gut feeling.
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