How to Make Decisions More Effectively

Photo by Ryoji Iwata on Unsplash

“You cannot make progress without making decisions.” – Jim Rohn


Whether you’re in charge of leading a small team or leading the country, making decisions decisively and effectively is key when it comes to successfully moving a company, or country, forward.  


On the flip side, being indecisive or too slow to make the necessary call often translates into devastating consequences, including lost customers, time, money, and in the case of this year’s pandemic – even lost lives. 


After recently watching the latter happen as the U.S. leadership struggled to come to a decision on how to properly deal with the COVID-19 crisis, I couldn’t help but wonder how much better off everyone would have been using the proven RAPID® method when coming to a decision.


Yup, that’s right, another acronym for you to remember. Except for this time around, it’s intended for whenever you need to make smart decisions quickly. 


What RAPID stands for:

Recommend – once valuable input has been gathered, one individual recommends a course of action or presents a series of options to take.

Agree – while open and constructive debates are always welcome, the goal is for all individual(s) to agree on a proposed recommendation. If an individual doesn’t agree with the rest of the group, the final decision maker can sign off on the agreement instead.

Perform – once a decision has been reached, the individual(s) must execute the decision in an efficient and effective way.  

Input – individual(s) are consulted to provide hard facts, data, and evidence that inform the recommendation.

Decide – once all of the options are on the table, a decision must be made by a single individual. However, it’s important to note that non-decision makers still have a responsibility to support the final decision regardless of their personal stance. In short, even if some folks don’t agree, they have to commit to executing the recommendation that has been greenlit by the decision-maker.


Now that you understand what RAPID stands for, let’s take a closer look at the order and 5-day process of actually applying this to a hypothetical decision of whether you as a business owner should allow employees to work from home through fall of 2020 due to the recent pandemic. 


What the RAPID process looks like in action:

Day 1 – 2: Gather all of the necessary input to inform the best recommendation: in other words, talk to your employees to see how they’re feeling about working from home, as well as what kind of impact working from home has on productivity before you set anything in stone. 


Day 2: Make a recommendation based on input: if your recommendation is to extend your company’s work from home policy, make sure your input validates your recommendation. In this case, the majority of your employees would have had to provide positive feedback about working from home, without any noticeable impact on productivity or the work itself. 


Day 3: Agree with your leadership team on this recommendation: think of this as your virtual kumbaya moment to get sign off from the rest of your leadership team on your proposed recommendation of employees working from home through fall. If for whatever reason, there is someone in the group that can’t seem to agree with the recommendation, the key decision-maker (you in this case) can override their disagreement. 


Day 4: Make the final decision: if you’re the key decision-maker, then make it official by letting all parties involved know where you landed. If you’re not the key decision-maker in this process, remember that you still have a responsibility to support the decision that has been made, regardless of your personal viewpoint.


Day 5: Take action: assign an individual(s) to communicate the decision in a timely manner via the proper channels (email, company-wide call, etc.) about the final decision that has been made to have employees work from home through fall.


If you’re already on board with the new RAPID method, but not so sure your team or company will go for it, try applying the same method by gathering input first before you make any recommendations. If your team collectively mentions they don’t feel like they need a new method for decision making, then it might not be the time to bring up a recommendation. However, if your team expresses that decisions take too long to make and are costing the company its customers, the RAPID method might just be a welcomed recommendation.



The Way Forward

The blood that runs through my veins has a little Nigerian, Ghanian, and Congolese in it. But more than anything, I am a child whose family was taken from our home and brought to Mississippi centuries ago.

Growing up, my mother and father would take me to their family homes and show me the graves of my ancestors.

I remember as they proudly told me about how this great uncle was the first to get free, and then he bought his wife and others or how that great aunt was the first to graduate from high school. There was so much pride in accomplishments that my classmates (who were all white for most of my life) would have taken for granted.

I also remember with pain the stories they told of the family and friends who had been lynched when they spoke out of turn.

Those stories left the greatest impression and served as a lesson in the consequences of being Black in America. I remember the desire to be as perfect as possible because I never wanted to be on the wrong side of the law. The desire for perfection nearly broke me in more ways than I can count mentally and emotionally.

As a teenager, through some strange cosmic joke, I was even arrested, prosecuted, and eventually exonerated for numerous felony offenses of which I did not commit. Still, since I was the Black teenager in the vicinity, the police decided I must have done it. Like many cases with a happy ending, it was only through a well meaning attorney who charged my parents less than she could that I eventually regained my freedom.

I share this because there is no such thing for a Black person and especially a Black trans lesbian as myself to act in a way where I can ensure my safety. My only possible protection occurs through my desire to dismantle the systems that perpetuate crimes against those who look like me. If you’re reading this, you also have this power.

It is no longer a time for measured comments, patience, or planning. We must all act now because it is clear that if we fail now, we doom not only ourselves but also future generations to the very same mistakes.

It is not lost on me that this movement begins as we celebrate another in Pride month, so I leave you with a quote of a personal hero of mine.

”You have to join every other movement for the freedom of people” ~ Bayard Rustin


Why It’s Time To Retire “Working Harder”

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash


I hate to break it to you, but some of the things you’ve learned about how to be successful are simply outdated. And the biggest one is that you need to “work harder and longer to be successful.”


So, what’s the golden ticket to being successful, you ask? Great question. You have to learn to work smarter or, as I like to say, work some PPE into your day (and no, I’m not talking about personal protective equipment). What I’m talking about is preparedness, prioritization, and execution.  


“In all your working, make sure your work is working.” ~ Regan Donofrio


Now that you’ve got the acronym part down, here’s how you put it into action:

1.     Prepare – the last thing you want to do is let emails or calls hijack your morning before your coffee has even kicked in. That’s why preparation is critical when it comes to planning out your day the night before, but preparation doesn’t just apply in the short term. You can benefit significantly from long-term preparedness by reading up on a field you want to pursue in 6 months or training for a marathon you want to run in a year. 


2.     Prioritize – if you’re tired of feeling overcommitted, overwhelmed, and overworked, you’ve got to get over the hump and learn to ruthlessly prioritize what’s most important. Prioritization starts with accepting that you have a limited amount of time to do an unlimited amount of things. Thus, you’ve got to constantly and consistently push yourself to do the most important and impactful thing FIRST. 


3.     Execute – you can prepare and prioritize all you want, but none of it matters without effective execution. So, what separates effective execution from plain ‘ol execution? Four things to be exact; staying organized/being clear on who’s doing what, setting deadlines, providing positive feedback, and resolving team conflicts. 

Did you notice what’s not a part of PPE? Working harder and longer hours to be successful. Sure, pulling a late-nighter to get that thing done for your boss may get you a few extra compliments in the short term; however, it’s not a sustainable or efficient way to do your best work in the long run. 


“It’s not the load that breaks you down; it’s the way you carry it.” ~ Lena Horne


There’s a good chance this kind of working style will only zap your energy and lead you straight to burnout. And if you’re like most people during quarantine these days, you’ll need that extra energy when you’re trying to juggle working from home with your other full-time job of super parenting or super streaming the latest show in your sweats. 

 

The bottom line? It’s time to retire the idea of “working harder and longer to be successful” once and for all and start embracing a new way of working when you put preparedness, prioritization, and execution into play. Seriously, think about it! You’ve got nothing to lose (besides feeling overwhelmed and overworked, of course) and everything to gain.  


How to Survive and Thrive During a Recession


Photo by Aljoscha Laschgari on Unsplash

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about navigating uncertainty from the economic recession in ‘08, it’s this: we have the power to thrive in trying times. Let me say that again, we have the power to thrive in trying times.


“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” — Albert Einstein.


And, there’s no better lesson to remember as we enter the great economic lockdown recession. With millions filing for unemployment during a global pandemic, it’s safe to say the sky can feel like it’s falling. But that doesn’t mean your dreams and career still can’t take off.


I know, I know, right about now you’re probably thinking…come on B., how can I thrive when I’m not sure I can even survive? Well, if I did it back in ’08 using the 5 tips below (without tech advantages like Zoom at my fingertips), I’ve got no doubt in my mind that you can too:


1.   Take action – while you can’t control the job market, you can control how you react to it by what action you take. And by action, I don’t mean waiting for companies or organizations to bail you out. Instead, take matters into your own hands and do SOMETHING your future self will thank you for. Start a regimen to keep yourself motivated and make it part of your routine to research, seek out and connect with companies that are still hiring during this time – even if that means you might not get to work for the company you’ve always dreamed of after college.


2.   Take a hard look at your skills – and I’m not just talking about your strengths. Seriously, write them all down…your weaknesses, threats, and opportunities too. Then, see how you can leverage your strengths, improve upon your weaknesses, and take advantage of your opportunities. You might just unlock the superpower that will pave the way to your ultimate success.


3.   Learn new skills – use your time wisely to not only sharpen existing skills but learn new skills that will be useful in the future by utilizing online programs like edX, where you can take FREE (yes, really) courses from Harvard and MIT to name a few. 


4.   Make the most of your connections – whether it’s your LinkedIn profile or your Facebook page, chances are there’s already somebody in your network that’s doing the work you want to do. Don’t be shy and say hi. Then set up 1:1s so you can better understand their role and how to best focus your preparation efforts. 


5.   Find ways to give back to your community – giving back is not only a great way to lift your spirits, but also a great way to build upon your skillset and meet people that can open doors to new opportunities. Some of my first leadership development opportunities actually evolved from participating in community service. So, get to know your community and figure out how you can best apply your skills to make the most significant impact.


“When nothing is sure, everything is possible.” ― Margaret Drabble 


While there’s no telling how long this virus or economic crisis will last, never forget that you always have the power to do more than survive, but thrive in trying times. And the sooner you realize this, the faster your dreams and career can take off. 


How to Score an A in Allyship

As someone that identifies as a black, lesbian, trans nonbinary, female, I’m no stranger to allies. But for every great example of allyship I’ve witnessed, it’s safe to say I’ve seen just as many (if not more) bad examples of allyship or as I like to call it, being an “ally for show” a.k.a. performative allyship.  


But first, let’s define allyship. In a nutshell, allyship is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. It’s important to note that this isn’t self-defined work or efforts, but rather the kind of work and efforts that are recognized by those that you’re seeking to ally with. On the flip side, performative allyship is when an individual from a majority or privileged group professes their support with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people for showmanship and credit without actually doing anything to provide value or support. In other words, it’s the difference between someone actually standing up for the LGBTQ community during a heated discussion or taking part in a protest vs. keeping quiet in the moments that matter, but tweeting out “love is love” during LGBTQ Month in October for more likes. 

So if you want to take part in allyship that actually makes a difference for marginalized individuals and/or groups of people, here are 5 ways to ensure you go about it the right way:


  • Take time to really listen – no genuine understanding or true allyship can occur without the act of listening to the diverse voices you’re an ally for. So do yourself a favor and simply listen without the need to comment, ask questions or get credit for the act of listening itself. 


  • Remember it’s not about you – if at any point you find yourself seeking praise or justifying that you’re an ally, what you’re really doing is putting the spotlight on yourself and away from the real issues, actions and needs of the individuals and groups at hand. After all, allyship is not an identity, but an active, consistent, and arduous practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group. So don’t make the mistake of making it about you instead.


  • Do the work – whether it’s attending protests, donating money to relevant organizations or simply speaking up when and where it matters most, you’ve got to be willing to DO THE WORK. That also means not only doing the work when it’s convenient for you but when you are needed most. 


  • Stay in your lane – whatever you do, don’t take advantage of your privilege by not giving credit where credit is due. What I mean by this is when you’re discussing social injustices that you didn’t experience firsthand, remember to remain objective and tell the story that needs to be told without making it your story.


  • Embrace constructive criticism – if someone from a group you’re aligned with tries to give you feedback on what could be better, don’t take it as an attack. Instead, allow yourself to be educated and look at their constructive criticism as an opportunity to help you simply become a better ally.  


Have some examples of your own to help others be a better ally? Share them in the comments below. 


For more, I recently gave a talk on allyship that can be found here.


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